By KELSY TAYLOR
Web Editor and Feature Writer
QUALITY OF LIFE: Ray Bowen has enjoyed taking part in the positive changes in Bixby during his tenure as mayor. Above, he is proud of the Bixby park system, which contributes to the city’s quality of life.
Kelsy L. Taylor for GTR Newspapers
Ray Bowen enjoys being the mayor of Bixby, where he has accomplished a variety of goals and looks forward to future projects.
Bowen grew up in Bixby and remembers how different the area was when he was a youngster. Bixby was a community of about 1,200 people and, he remembers, “at the time so many of the homes and businesses were concentrated in the downtown area.”
Growing up in Bixby, Bowen became involved in the community at an early age by becoming a sports editor for the newspaper at Bixby High School.
Hoping to one day become a teacher, Bowen earned a bachelor of science in business education from Oklahoma State University in 1970.
When the opportunity to go into business with his father presented itself, he jumped at the chance. Bowen’s father had owned Bowen Jewelry since 1948, which became Bixby mainstay for 50 years.
Bowen continued to step into the community by becoming a teacher at Broken Arrow High School in 1969, where he taught civics and Oklahoma history. In 1971, Bowen began to teach driver’s education at the high school and enjoyed coaching a variety of teams including football, baseball, basketball, and softball.
In 2005, Bowen decided to run for the Bixby City Council to try “to make a positive difference in the community.” Bowen was elected as mayor in 2006.
One of the first priorities that Bowen had as mayor was to establish a line of communication with the citizens of Bixby by creating a quarterly online newsletter. “I like to keep everyone informed as much as possible. I think that it is important for people in the community to take a look at the newsletters and see what’s going on. In the first quarter of this year, I gave a synopsis of accomplishments and I think that it gives everyone a much better picture of where we are going.”
Bixby was the fastest growing city in Oklahoma from 2000 to 2006 and continues to grow today. Bowen welcomes the growth because it brings a lot of great citizens into the community. Bixby schools are one of the first entities to feel the growth and regular meetings between Bowen and school leaders ensure good communication and planning about future growth.
Bowen also enjoys working alongside the members of the city council. “They are very progressive for the community and look to get things done. The council works well together and have a vision that we hope to see Bixby reach.”
The mayor of Bixby is an elected position by the five man city council, and there are many rewards that Bowen receives. “I think that the biggest reward is seeing outstanding things happen for the community,” he says.
In the last four years, the Spirit Bank Event Center and Regal Plaza developments have created about 350 jobs for the community. Several of Bixby’s other developments such as Cross Creek have produced an additional 150 jobs. “We are not only bringing in retail, but we are creating jobs in Bixby which is really important,” Bowen adds.
Bowen is very excited about another project that has recently been set into motion. Bentley Park will provide a dynamic sporting complex for the Bixby area. “Bentley Park is a huge thing for Bixby and something that I have a lot of passion for since I was a former coach. Bentley Park will include a couple of baseball and softball quads, soccer fields, Oklahoma’s largest super playground and a splash pad. There will also be a multipurpose building there that will allow youth to register to play sports in large teams.”
Money Magazine recently named Bixby number 67 out of the top 100 cities in the United States as the best places to live. “When you think about all of the cities across the United States, to be in that top 100 is extremely exciting,” notes Bowen.
To read Bowen’s quarterly newsletter, visit www.bixby.com.