By BOB LEWIS
BIG AND GETTING BIGGER: Michael Spurgeon says not many people realize Broken Arrow ranks in the top 280 largest of this nation’s 18,000 cities. His job, he says, is to serve its residents and make sure it is ready for the 150,000 people he expects to call it home in the next 25 years.
GTR Newspapers photo
Editor’s Note: Broken Arrow City Manager Michael Spurgeon is one of Greater Tulsa Reporter’s “10 To Watch in Greater Tulsa” honorees as announced in its January 2018 issues. was the first news group to develop a “10 to Watch” program which was launched in 2009. Throughout the year, has been publishing feature articles spotlighting this year’s honorees.
“Federal and state officials usually receive most of the media attention, but local government has the most direct impact on the daily lives of citizens in the community and the local economy.”
Those words were spoken by Broken Arrow City Manager Michael Spurgeon on Sept. 29 after he was awarded the coveted designation of Certified Municipal Official by the Oklahoma Municipal League at its annual conference in Oklahoma City.
“Earning this designation was important to me to show how committed I am to local government and public service,” said Spurgeon, a 30-years-and-counting veteran of his profession. “It’s vital to have dedicated and well-trained individuals serving communities.
“I’m proud of the commitment and hard work our employees do in service to our city.”
An Immediate Impact
Very few people are better suited to handling the myriad of duties associated with the city manager position than this month’s “Ten to Watch” honoree. After taking office in September of 2015, he told the news media he had two primary goals. One was to establish continuity “right out of the gate,” and the other was to “provide strong leadership and good communications.” Another priority was the “Rose District,” a revitalization project that has transformed the downtown area into one of the region’s busiest retail locations while earning Broken Arrow two national “most livable city” awards this year alone.
“If I could go back and rewrite that list, I would add enhancing transparency in all aspects of city government to it,” he said.
It is common for people in the public eye to talk about the importance of education. BA’s city manager does more than talk about it – he lives it.
In 1984, he earned an associate degree in business administration from Crowder College. Next came a bachelor degree in business administration from Thomas Edison State College and honor graduate designation from the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School at the New Jersey Military Academy. Following military service, he earned a master’s degree in public administration from Rutgers University.
While at Crowder, Spurgeon was on the varsity baseball team, which may explain why he lists working out and playing slow-pitch softball as two of his favorite away-from-the-job activities. Once infected with an athletic drive to win, it is always there.
His most unusual job, he notes with a grin, was not in city government but as the football play-by-play radio announcer for the Miami High School Wardogs. How times have changed. Today, his resume, including his current position in Broken Arrow, lists service as Township Business Administrator for the City of Pemberton, New Jersey; being the first City Manager in Miami, Oklahoma where he was also General Manager of Public Utilities; and service as Director of Administration for the City of St. Charles, Missouri.
These varied experiences have helped create in Spurgeon a “think outside the box” mentality.
Big Picture Perspective
Nowhere was that more obvious than in the creation of a $210 million general obligation bond issue, overwhelmingly passed by Broken Arrow voters earlier this year. Before he took office, the norm in B.A. was smaller bond packages to help meet infrastructure needs for three or four-year periods. This one includes 88 different undertakings to help spur continuing growth well into the next decade.
If two words could summarize Spurgeon’s outlook for B.A. they would be “unbridled enthusiasm.” The reasons why are as varied as they are exciting.
One is “Innovation Park,” a public-private initiative that organizers hope will be the kind of business magnet that the Golden Triangle is in North Carolina. This vision involves setting aside an 80-acre site and providing the infrastructure, financial incentives and educational support needed to attract major manufacturing and aerospace companies and the high paying jobs they will bring to the community.
Upgrading the city’s water supply and distribution network is also on his “must do” list. He says the city is in good shape until 2025. But by then it must be ready to meet the needs of a population headed toward the 150,000-residents plateau.
Then, there is a recycling test program set to launch in January and a list of additional projects long enough to fill two display boards.
With the city team now in place, Spurgeon said he is confident each of these undertakings will be completed and more and larger ones will take their place.