Community Leader Recognized for Service

Managing Editor

LONG-TIME MANAGER: After being inducted into the 2014 Oklahoma Hall of Fame for City and Town Officials, Central Services Director Randy Ewing, second from left, stood with Jenks City Manager Mike Tinker, far left, Mayor Lonnie Sims and Jenks Chamber of Commerce President Josh Driskell.

Courtesy Jenks Chamber

In September, Randy Ewing, who served as Jenks City Manager from 1981-2007, was inducted into the 2014 Oklahoma Hall of Fame for City and Town Officials.
Ewing remembers first arriving in Jenks, when it was a city of 5,000 and was looking to improve its image.

After he was hired, Jenks then- “Mayor Wayne Parker Jr. told me, ‘We want the town to look like it belongs with its well-regarded school system, and, while you’re doing that, keep Jenks Jenks.’”

For the next 26 years, that advice rang in his ears. Ewing now serves as Jenks’ central services director.

Among the community members who provided recommendations for Ewing’s induction were former Jenks Public Schools superintendent Kirby Lehman, former county commissioner John Selph and Claremore City Manager Jim Thomas.

In his recommendation letter, Lehman credited Ewing as always holding true to “developing a quality community” through his expectations of the local school district. “He always had quality and the best long-term interest of the community at heart,” Lehman wrote.

Thomas commented in his recommendation on Ewing’s “passion for and commitment to public service” as well as his “spirit of community and cooperation among municipalities.”

Surely, for these reasons and more, Ewing was able to maintain his lengthy tenure as city manager, something that is not easily accomplished, Ewing says.

“It’s rare for a city manager to be in office for so long because it’s a complicated, stressful job, and since you’re an elected official, you can be voted out,” says Ewing.

In addition, Ewing credits his ability to maintain his office to his ability to adapt to the interests of city council members, which was largely due to their overall unity on the vision for the city.

“The most interesting thing to me over these decades is that each new session of city council has agreed with that original vision for the community,” he said in his Hall of Fame speech.

“Our city councilors have always focused on the betterment of Jenks, instead of their own agendas.”

Ewing remembers first arriving in Jenks from Greenville, SC, where he had worked as central services director, some 34 years ago: “When you drove along the bridge into Jenks, there were sand plants, drainage holes and a sewer plant where the aquarium now sits. This was the entrance to Jenks.”

Since then, Ewing has seen many city changes, but all in line with Mayor Parker’s original words: to keep Jenks a place where “the people are friendly, where you know everyone in the grocery store, to keep that 5,000 (population) feeling,” says Ewing.

Though, he also realized the city’s need for commercial expansion and the challenge that presented given that the city is only 20 square miles. Ewing realized early on that city officials needed to focus on attracting corporations and offices and creating points of destination. “That way, as our residents leave us for shopping and work, we have offices to strengthen our commercial activity,” says Ewing.

In line with that, he feels that his never-quit attitude served him well in the completion of some of the city’s projects, such as, in 1996, the four-lane bridge that crosses the Arkansas River at 96th Street.

“We didn’t have the designation of a state highway, which other cities have, so their bridges are built by the state,” he says. “We had to do it the hard way with no help. It took a lot of time to get it done, but we found the funding.”

Also among his proudest achievements is bringing Kimberly-Clark Corporation to Jenks in the early ‘90s, which brought added infrastructure to the city and paved the way for further commercial growth.

Ewing also oversaw the construction of the Oklahoma Aquarium, RiverWalk Crossing, Veterans Park and South Lakes Golf Course.

Ewing was the one who first approached then-County Commissioner Selph regarding “utilizing the land that was in a ‘clear zone’ next to the airport,” Selph writes in his recommendation letter. That land eventually became the South Lakes Golf Course: “one of the most utilized golf courses in Tulsa” and a project that “would not have happened without the support and encouragement of Randy Ewing.”

The aquarium was another project that fell in line with Ewing’s goal of bringing points of destination to the city. “Many people said that we would never open the (aquarium) doors. But now we have a major cultural destination that people come to from across the state,” Ewing says.

RiverWalk Crossing presented a similar goal, and Ewing is confident in its future success with the center’s new Creek Nation ownership.

Not everyone can say that, decades later, they’ve followed through on a childhood dream. “I remember first hearing about a city manager on TV when I was 12 years old,” says Ewing. “I asked my parents about it and thought it sounded interesting.”

Ewing, a native of Wichita Falls, Texas, went on to earn his bachelor’s in government from Midwestern State University and a master’s in public administration from the University of Tennessee. He spent his first six years after college as administrative director for the Iowa Department of Environmental Quality and then worked in Greenville, S.C., before coming to Jenks.

Looking back, while the job had its challenges, Ewing remains satisfied with his years of service, noting that he especially enjoyed the variety his work brought him and nurturing the “idea that cities are a living place and that we can keep improving them.”

Updated 12-23-2014

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