Karen Keith Brings Versatility, Passion to Political Arena

Contributing Writer


Several observations may be made when sitting down for a chat with District Two County Commissioner hopeful Karen Keith. She is smart. She is well-informed. She is bursting at the seams to get busy and to get the job done for Tulsa County and her constituency if she is elected. What you won’t find is a “politician” who double talks or skirts important issues. You will also not find a rabid attack of smears towards her opponent, Sally Bell.

“There has never been a time when coming together was more important. There is neither time nor funds to squander on pettiness. I believe local public servants should cross party lines,” Keith says. To make the point, she served former Republican Mayor Bill LaFortune. It was her job to organize operations for the over-site committees of Vision 2025. She earned the endorsement of former Mayor Bob LaFortune.

The improvements at Expo Square have put Tulsa on the map for national equestrian shows. Karen is anxious to continue the success at Expo with groups such as the Arabian Horse Association. While working with the Tulsa Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, as Director of Partnership Development, Keith established a relationship with the leadership team for the Arabians and is excited that they are in Tulsa for the first time. “Expo Square is a huge economic engine for the region. It fills more hotel rooms than any other sector. The more we can do to attract these top notch shows like the Arabians, Richert and Palomino’s, just to name a few, the greater success we will have. We will all benefit with a predicted $25 million economic boost for the Arabian show alone.

“I didn’t get into this race as a politician. I did it at the urging of so many, many people. I’m fortunate to have met scores of really ‘good folks’ along the way while contributing my time over the past three decades to causes I found important and meaningful on a local level,” she says.

Some of those meaningful efforts have included involvement with the Brookside Business Association to help build medians in the heavily pedestrian area on Peoria. She joined fellow advocate Marilyn Inhofe Tucker and others to create the non-partisan “Tulsa Now.” She worked on the Vision 2025 Downtown Housing Fund Committee and on the BOK Arena and Convention Center Design and Oversight Committees.

As a respected and well-known reporter for KJRH, Keith learned early to roll up her sleeves and put in a full day’s work. She became a trusted part of a vast number of households in Tulsa and its outreach areas. “The way things are accomplished is by doing your homework and to dig as deeply as possible for all the facts.” she says.

Testament to her abilities and talent as a communicator are numerous awards and honors including six Outstanding Television Personality-Reporter of the Year Awards given by the Tulsa Chapter of American Women in Radio and Television and the prestigious Star Award in 1994 given to an Outstanding Individual in Television, a national honor bestowed by the American Women in Radio and TV. Her series, “Karen Keith’s Success Stories” garnered her the Advocate of the Year Award in 1994 presented by Journal Record Publishing.

Keith’s passion for public service began as a teenager in 4-H, teaching sewing to a group of students at the Oklahoma School for the Blind. Some years later her passion for design and sewing was again instrumental in serving a greater cause. Her grandmother was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and had trouble dressing with conventional clothing. In the spirit of American entrepreneurialism, she created “Silver Label” which made stylish fashions with hidden Velcro fasteners.

In response to Bell’s pledge to remove taxes, Keith states, “No one wants higher taxes, and County Commissioners do not have the power to create taxes. Any increase is enacted by voters. Currently, county taxes pay for things such as the health department, road improvements, the sheriff’s department, the jail, parks, and libraries.

“One of the things I feel most strongly about is the need for full disclosure of county operations so that we can begin to trust our government again,” Keith says.

Keith is a “homegrown Green Country girl” and graduate of Oklahoma State University, where she also earned the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1991. She is married to Tulsa attorney Patrick Malloy. They both feel blessed to have shared their lives with a foreign exchange student, Gulnara Taragachova, from Azerbaijan, who graduated from TCC and OSU-Tulsa. He is now employed by Parker Drilling and works in Kazakhstan. The rest of their family includes their two dogs, Jerry and Jana.

Before we paint this candidate as too, too perfect, suffice it to say, there is a Karen Keith soap box car, and she was instrumental in the creation of the BooHaHa, Tulsa’s largest Halloween parade. If you have ever met her, you will quickly feel you have gained a new friend, and you have. She will invite you into her 15th Street office, which is scheduled for demolition after the election and ask you to sign the wall. With meetings going on in every room, your refreshments could range from cold pizza to hot coffee, a bottle of water or square of Double Bubble. Her workers and volunteers make it a happy place, and if all goes as they have planned, it will be an even happier place at the end of the day on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

Updated 10-21-2008

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