Jenks Mayor Discusses City’s Past, Future

Managing Editor

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Mayor of Jenks Kelly Dunkerley stands on the Jenks pedestrian bridge, overlooking RiverWalk Crossing and FlyingTee, which opened in June. In addition to RiverWalk, which is currently experiencing an influx of new businesses, there is a long list of economic development and quality-of-life projects taking place throughout the city.

EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers

Editor’s Note: Mayor of Jenks Kelly Dunkerley is one of Greater Tulsa Reporter’s “10 People to Watch in 2016,” as announced in its January 2016 issue. was the first news group in greater Tulsa to introduce People to Watch, which launched in January 2009.

Throughout the year, has published a series of articles featuring each of its “10 People to Watch,” with next month’s issue to feature local restaurateur and former Glenpool Mayor Momodou Ceesay.

When asked to discuss the city of Jenks and the progress it has seen and is currently experiencing, Mayor Kelly Dunkerley admits that he could talk for hours. However, before anything can be discussed, the first thing that should be done is to pay tribute to the decades of strong city leadership, he asserts.

Dunkerley, who moved to Jenks with his family in 2004, was elected mayor in April 2015. He has served on the city council since 2013. Prior to that, he served on the planning and zoning commission for two years and as Board Chairman for the Jenks Chamber of Commerce.

Dunkerley’s wife is a veterinarian and faculty member at Tulsa Community College. Their daughter is a freshman at Jenks High School. Dunkerley works for for State Farm Insurance as its public affairs manager.

“We chose to move to Jenks because we felt it provided the highest quality of life and the schools are unmatched,” says Dunkerley.

Regarding Jenks’ past leadership, he continues, “The building blocks of where Jenks is going have been set by wise leaders decades earlier.” As some examples, he references the construction of the 96th street bridge, the relocation of the sewage lagoon further south from its former location near where the Oklahoma Aquarium now resides, the construction of the Creek Turnpike, the opening of the Kimberly-Clark facility in 1990 and “an absolutely first class school system.”

The city has also maintained its focus on river development for the past 15 years, he continues, with the opening of the Oklahoma Aquarium in 2002 and RiverWalk Crossing 10 years ago. With the opening of FlyingTee in June, businesses have joined RiverWalk Crossing in the past months with more businesses on their way, including Andolini’s Pizzeria and Maryn’s Taphouse and Raw Bar.

Add to that the opening of Margaritaville in August, and additional development is sure to follow on both the Jenks and Tulsa sides of the river, says Dunkerley.
Most recently, residents approved the passage of the Vision package that includes construction of two low-water dams in the Arkansas River, one of those to be constructed south of the 96th street bridge, which spans between Tulsa and Jenks.
“It’s a huge commitment on the part of our residents to keep saying yes to the river,” he says.

Included in the Vision package is additional bike trails in Jenks that will connect with Tulsa’s trail system, with Jenks and Tulsa leaders’ eventual goal of seeing that trail system connect all the way to Turkey Mountain.

The city is also seeing new commercial projects throughout its city limits, including in the four areas where it created (Tax Increment Financing) districts: south of the Creek Turnpike where Simon Premium Outlets is expected to open in early 2018; Village on Main, where Thrive apartments are currently under construction; at Main Street and Highway 75, where the nearly completed headquarters of Gateway Mortgage will sit plus a commercial center with shopping and a hotel; and a commercial development on the north side of 121st street, west of Highway 75.

“Our city needs sales tax, which is our only revenue stream to foster a high quality of life,” says Dunkerley. “The outlet mall has the potential to double our city budget in the future.”

Not only that, but as the mall is built, Dunkerley expects to see increased interest in the nearly 200 acres of land around the mall and along the Arkansas River, opening the door for further river development.

“As hard as Jenks has worked to make our city attractive for quality development, it’s often even more difficult to maintain a high level of excellence, and I’m proud we’ve been able to meet that challenge,” he says.

Yet, in addition to the new construction projects, Jenks leaders remain loyal to the city’s history, specifically its downtown area.

Using excess Vision 2025 funds, the city of Jenks is creating a downtown park on A Street between Second and Third streets, thanks to its partnership with Jenks Public Schools, which owns the property. The green space will include a performance stage and public restrooms.

“We are committed to being a walkable city, with trails and through place-making,” he says.

To further foster that idea, sidewalks are being added downtown that connect individuals to the park, and alleyways are being improved to provide more “pleasurable walking areas,” Dunkerley says, specifically the east-west sidewalk adjacent to the Hive, a community arts incubator, and the east-west alley that lies north of Main Street between Second and Third streets.

The areas are being rehabilitated to offer additional parking and seating, turning them from alleys into sidewalks, an idea that city officials saw implemented during intercity visits.

The city is also expanding its main trail in the south part of the city in order to connect it to downtown.

As the city continues to see development, Dunkerley makes it clear that this was no accident but, rather, a plan of action that community leaders have methodically implemented.

“With the success of the Jenks school district, we had to think outside of the box to bring economic development to the city,” he says.

“First, we focused on building high quality neighborhoods, because our school system was drawing families to the city. As we’ve accomplished that goal, we then focused on core infrastructure improvements and establishing a business friendly environment with incentives such as districts to attract high quality economic development.

“With the Arkansas River, Simon Premium Outlets and our downtown, we are making Jenks a point of destination,” says Dunkerley.

That vision, it appears, is nearing fulfillment now more than ever before.

Updated 08-29-2016

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