By BOB LEWIS
Special for B.A. Express
RUSSELL PETERSON, BUILDING A BETTER BROKEN ARROW: The Broken Arrow resident and attorney formed Build A Better Broken Arrow Committee in 1991, and he expresses the importance of the Aug. 28 bond issue for the positive future of Oklahoma’s fourth largest city.
Broken Arrow Express photo
Russell Peterson has never run for public office. But, over the past three decades, he has played as big a role in Broken Arrow’s development as any elected official.
During that time, Peterson, a local attorney, has helped shape and promote general obligation bond issues for the city and the Broken Arrow school district that help make his hometown so appealing to businesses and residents alike.
Now, through the Build A Better Broken Arrow Committee that he formed in 1991 and serves as president, he’s at it again. But he is quick to point out the bond proposal that will appear on the Aug. 28 ballot is unlike any that voters have seen before.
“Traditionally, the City Council has gone with fairly short-term bonds designed to move the community forward in three- and four-year steps. This time, they are truly thinking outside the box and have put together a plan that will serve as a blueprint for growth over the next 10 years,” he said.
Development of the package began with City Manager Michael Spurgeon asking department heads to put together a wish list of projects they would like to see done. To help prioritize these undertakings, he conducted a community wide survey, held a number of public presentations and solicited input from a variety of organizations, including the Build A Better Broken Arrow Committee.
A key element in the city’s strategy and a big reason for voter approval of issues submitted during the past 30 years Peterson says is a continuing focus on very real needs coupled with the ability to fund every activity voters are being asked to approve and still stay below the city’s bonding capacity. That’s important, he notes, because it means they can be done with no new taxes.
“This is the most comprehensive and best thought-out bond proposal I’ve seen in all the years I’ve been involved,” Peterson says. “It has a lot to offer every sector of Broken Arrow. Our committee has reviewed it thoroughly and we believe it deserves overwhelming support.”
For legal reasons, the issue is divided into six parts that will appear on the ballot. Each requires a “yes” vote to make it all happen.
“I’m not sure everybody recognizes the fact Broken Arrow is one of the 300 largest cities in this country,” Peterson says. “We have received a number of awards as one of the country’s most livable cities. Much of the credit for all this goes to voters who have consistently supported community growth through passage of these bonds.”
Peterson says his involvement in these undertakings gives him a great deal of personal satisfaction.
“It feels good to drive down the street and see things that were built because of these bonds and realize I had a hand in making them happen,” he said.
Born in Stillwater, Peterson earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from Oklahoma State University. His Juris Doctorate came from the University of Texas.
He settled in Broken Arrow in 1977 and has served as chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and BA Schools Foundation.
The heritage of community service and leadership he exhibits are part of his family’s legacy. His late father, Dr. Duane R. Peterson, was a legendary figure on the campus. For 38 years, he taught in the school’s College of Veterinary Medicine, earning Teacher of the Year laurels four times. He also received national recognition for developing the Peterson Eye Block Procedure. The Peterson-Friend Residence Hall and Peterson Centennial Garden were both named in his honor.
Peterson’s brother, Ron, an attorney, former municipal judge and insurance executive, was also an active B.A. leader. After being elected to the state legislature, he served in a number of capacities, including chairmanship of the House Economic Development and Financial Services Committee.
For more information on the Aug. 28 election, Peterson invites voters to visit buildabetterbrokenarrow.com.