Ten To Watch in Greater Tulsa 2018

Since 2010, Newspapers has annually offered a series to highlight individuals who are predicted to be newsmakers in the coming year.
’s Ten to Watch in 2018 are:

Tulsa’s Young Professionals 2018 Chair is Moises Echeverria, president and of the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice.
ros’ over 80 annual initiatives, events and programs come to fruition through the work of its board of directors and staff.
The organization’s efforts are divided up into eight committees, termed “crews,” including arts and entertainment, diversity, government relations and sustainability.
In 2018, ros celebrates 13 years since its inception. The organization’s mission continues to be “to attract young creative talent to the Tulsa region, develop the next generation of leaders, and enhance Tulsa’s sense of place,” says Echeverria.
In order to further that mission, Echeverria’s goals as chair are “to elevate ros’ initiatives and programming from each of our crews to the local policy level. As such, we will ensure the perspectives of those of our generation are considered, and more importantly, leave a legacy for years to come.”

Financial Corporation President and Steve Bradshaw will serve as the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce 2018 Chair of its Board of Directors.
He has previously served the chamber as its VisitTulsa 2.0 chair and as the United Way campaign co-chair in 2016.
Bradshaw oversees Financial, which provides commercial and consumer banking, investment and trust services, mortgage origination and servicing, and the TransFund electronic funds transfer network. He became the top executive at the corporation in January 2014.
Bradshaw joined Financial, one of the largest bank holding companies in the U.S., in 1991 and has served in a number of roles, ultimately having oversight of every function of the bank at some point.
Bradshaw and the chamber’s focus in 2018 will continue to be on the state of public education in Oklahoma, attraction and retention of top talent, and job growth.

In September 2017, Susan Neal was named interim executive director of Gilcrease Museum, after the resignation of James Pepper Henry, who left the museum in April 2017 to become director and of the American Indian Cultural Center & Museum in Oklahoma City.
Gilcrease is owned by the City of Tulsa and managed by the University of Tulsa.
Neal, a lifelong Tulsan, has served as TU’s vice president for public affairs, research and economic development since May 2010 and as chief operating officer for Gilcrease since 2014. In her new role with Gilcrease, she will retain her title and responsibilities as vice president for public affairs with TU.
Neal oversaw the final construction and opening of the Helmerich Center for American Research, which is connected to the museum, and opened in 2014.
She will also oversee the $65 million museum expansion that will begin soon and will be funded by Vision Tulsa.

Michael Spurgeon took the helm as Broken Arrow’s City Manager in September 2015 amid a time of regular city manager turnover. Spurgeon was the city’s fifth city manager in 11 years.
Since that time, the city has continued to grow in its commercial development projects, jobs and home construction, with commercial growth largely confined to downtown and the northern portion and residential expansion taking place to the south.
In 2017, Broken Arrow welcomed 1,000 new jobs and saw 20 new commercial business openings.
Spurgeon is also focused on improving city efficiency and effectiveness through its talent recruitment by being more interested in hiring individuals who have a willingness to learn and a servant’s desire, he says.
The City is also in the midst of creating a general obligation bond package that will go before citizens later this year and the roll-out of two recycling pilot programs that will begin in the summer.

Anna America has been the Tulsa City Councilor for District 7 since 2014. America’s district largely covers the Union school district.
During her time as city councilor, America has served as a voice for her district, shining a light on area problems, including longtime-blighted retail corridors and public safety, as well as street needs, such as along Mingo Road between 71st and 81st streets.
In addition to her city government work, America was named executive director of the Child Abuse Network () in November 2017.
, located at 2829 S. Sheridan Rd., provides one location that brings together various community services and public agencies for families dealing with child abuse situations.
America’s focus in her new role will be largely on securing funding for the nearly 30-year-old organization, she says.
America began her professional career working in the journalism and communications fields before moving into the nonprofit sector.

Gary Akin has served as Owasso Chamber of Commerce President and since 1995.
In addition to advocating for area businesses and industries, Akin sees his role as legislative advocate for citywide and statewide improvements, which are important to local businesses and citizens, he says.
These issues include regionalism, public education, healthcare, economic development and transportation.
Akin is excited to see Owasso continue to grow as its residential developments expand into the northern portion of the city.
Owasso residents approved a $57 million school bond issue in October 2017 that will include the construction of a ninth elementary school that will sit in the northern part of the city to help with the projected growth.
Before coming to the chamber, Akin, an Oklahoma native, spent 19 years working as a banker with First Bank of Owasso.
“I chose to join the chamber in hopes of benefiting the city.”

Lydia Wilson has been named Bixby Public Schools’ Interim Superintendent as the search begins for the replacement of Kyle Wood, who was forced to resign amid allegations of student rape and a believed cover-up by school administrators.
Allegations came to light in November 2017, over one month after the alleged incident occurred. It was also discovered that a similar incident had occurred in 2016.
“We are moving forward with a focus on students and their needs,” says Wilson. “We continue to serve students and tend to the business of educating all students at a high level.”
Additionally, the Bixby School Board has begun its search for a new superintendent, contracting with OSSBA (Oklahoma State School Boards Association) to manage the search.
The job opening is currently posted at OSSBA.org. Applications will be accepted until approximately the end of February, with the appointment of a new superintendent hopefully taking place by late March, early April, Wilson says.
The school district will also seek input from stakeholders, including through a survey that will be available soon, she continues. “We encourage the community to participate in the search by completing a survey once it is posted.”
Wilson began with Bixby schools in 1992 as a special education teacher. She has been principal of Central Elementary for almost 10 years.

The year 2018 will be the year of the parks in Greater Tulsa, especially with the opening of the extravagant Gathering Place, Tulsa’s Riverfront Park.
In the taxpayer’s interest, Tulsa County Commissioner Ron Peters has worked with Tulsa Mayor G.T Bynum in the formation of the City-County Parks Realignment Commission to identify duplication within the City and County park systems and potentially align services, as the people of Tulsa County will have four park systems to support, each of which depends upon private donations and public support.
Peters says that the commission is composed of several committed parks experts and supporters to look at optimization of park systems into one that is sustainable and can be enjoyed by future generations of people living in Tulsa County.
It will be interesting to watch Commissioner Peters as he works to help optimize the efficiencies of the overall park system.

Hannibal B. Johnson will become the president of the Rotary Club of Tulsa beginning July 1 of this year through June 30, 2019. Johnson served as chairman of the board of directors of the Rotary Club of Tulsa 2015–2016 and chairs the club’s diversity and inclusion committee.
Johnson is a leading citizen in Greater Tulsa. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School and did his undergraduate work at the University of Arkansas. He is an attorney, author, and independent consultant specializing in diversity and inclusion/cultural competence issues and nonprofit governance.
Johnson is past president of Leadership Tulsa, past president of the Metropolitan Tulsa Urban League and past president of the Northeast Oklahoma Black Lawyers Association. He served as chairman of the board of directors of The Community Leadership Association, an international leadership organization, during 2001 – 2002, and is a founding director of the Oklahoma Appleseed Center for Law and Justice.

As of this writing, the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks is without an executive director. It will be interesting as to who will be chosen to lead the local tourist attraction.
In December 2017, it was confirmed that Director Terry Bowers’ employment had been terminated after many months of controversy over her employment.
The aquarium opened its doors in 2003 and unveiled its most recent exhibit, Sea Turtle Island, in early 2017.
The Oklahoma Aquarium was partially funded by Vision 2025, which allocated $12 million for construction costs. That amount was fully paid by June 2016.
Since then, the City of Jenks has been responsible for additional debt held by the attraction as well as other expenses.
While the aquarium annually brings in almost half-a-million visitors per year, funding remains a question.
The aquarium is governed by a seven-member Jenks Aquarium Authority.

Updated 01-30-2018

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