Ten people to watch in 2016

In November 2015, G.T. Bynum announced that he plans to run in 2016 to be Tulsa’s next mayor. Bynum is a fifth generation Tulsan who was elected to the Tulsa City Council in 2008. In 2011, he was selected to serve as the youngest city council chairman in Tulsa history.

Bynum is also head of the Arkansas River Infrastructure Task Force, which is proposing three Tulsa-area low-water dams. A vote is expected to go to the public in early 2016.

During his time on the city council, Bynum’s focus has been on fiscal restraint, public safety and infrastructure.

His accomplishments include leading the effort to enact the largest streets improvement package in Tulsa history, authoring the first city sales tax cut, and crafting budget amendments that put Tulsa Police Department helicopters back into service and doubled the number of police academies.

In 2011, Bynum was selected as an Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow, and in 2014, he was selected as the only city councilor in the nation to participate in the Moneyball For Government Fellowship Program.

In April 2015, Kelly Dunkerley was elected as Mayor of Jenks.

With sizable residential growth over the past recent years, the city is now beginning to see its number of commercial developments grow.

In September, Simon Premium Outlets announced that construction will begin soon on the outlet mall that was initially in discussions to be built in Tulsa near Turkey Mountain. However, after public backlash due to the location so close to the urban wilderness, developers moved the project to Jenks, to be located along the south side of the Creek Turnpike, west of the Arkansas River.

The first phase will be more than 300,000 square feet with up to 90 retailers and is expected to open in summer 2017.

Set to open spring 2016 at RiverWalk Crossing is FlyingTee, a virtual golf range and restaurant.

In December, ground was broken for Thrive, an urban lifestyle community that will bring residential options to Jenks’ Village on Main development, located east of the Oklahoma Aquarium in downtown Jenks.

Momodou Ceesay owns one of the great success stories anywhere. A native of the West African country of Gambia, he came to the United States to attend Rogers State College (now Rogers State University). He transferred to Oklahoma State University, majoring in Hotel and Restaurant Management, a degree that eventually led him to opening his popular Mamadou’s Restaurant in Glenpool. He then became that city’s mayor in 2013.

Ceesay’s popularity is known regionally, and a few years ago he was approached to open a Mamadou’s location in downtown Tulsa. It is scheduled to open in January near the Aloft Hotel close to 5th Street and Denver Avenue.

The area is vibrant, as currently the Central Library is expected to reopen in summer 2016. Also, work began in October 2015 on extending 5th Street to run in front of the library and Aloft Hotel. That project is expected to be completed close to the time of the library’s reopening. Watch for the continuing success of Momodou Ceesay!

Jeff Dunn is the 2016 Chair of the Board of the Tulsa Regional Chamber and president and of Mill Creek Lumber and Supply Company, a family business started in 1934. Dunn joined Mill Creek in 2001 after having practiced law from 1992-2001 as the founding partner of Dunn and Daffern, P.A., a Tulsa law firm.

Dunn is a strong supporter and volunteer with the Tulsa Regional Chamber and is also an avid supporter of education in the community. He currently serves as chairman of the Regional University System of Oklahoma Board of Regents.

Dunn assumes the chairmanship at a difficult time with dramatic drop in oil and gas prices, which has impacted the economic outlook of greater Tulsa and Oklahoma. His chairmanship tenure will be interesting as his team will work to bring in new businesses to the region during a time when Tulsa may be losing energy-related corporate headquarters and personnel due to the fall in energy prices and the federal government’s stand on carbon fuels.

Dr. Deborah Gist became Tulsa Public Schools’ Superintendent in July 2015 after the retirement of Dr. Keith Ballard. She is a graduate of Memorial High School.
Prior to her current role, Gist served as commissioner of education for the State of Rhode Island. Before that, Gist was the first state superintendent of education for the District of Columbia. She became a teacher 27 years ago in Fort Worth and considers her eight years in the classroom the most important part of her career in education. She has also served as a senior policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Education.
Gist has discussed her belief in the importance of involving educators in the decision-making process through school visits, surveys and task forces. Since starting her position, Gist has organized numerous meetings to gain feedback from district teachers and parents. 
Gist also has expressed an interest in finding more opportunities to enlarge the district’s magnet and specialty schools in order to include more students and families.

Daniel Regan is the 2016 chair of Tulsa’s Young Professionals. 

Regan has been involved with ros since its inception around 2004. 

“As the 2016 chair, I am especially excited to have a big impact on young voter registration and turnout next year,” he says.  

“We are working on some exciting new #provethemwrong campaign initiatives for the organization, and I truly believe we have a unique opportunity in 2016 to help create the type of future our next generation desires. I’m determined to help ros continue to be a part of that community planning and forethought process and look forward to the challenge.”

He serves as vice president of Kanbar Property Management and senior vice president of Devonshire Investments & Devonshire Law.

In 2013, he served as finance director and deputy political director for Kathy Taylor’s political campaign for Tulsa Mayor, and from 2009-2011, he served as finance director for David Boren’s campaign for U.S. Congress. 

In October 2015, Sherry Gamble Smith was elected executive director of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce.

The mission of the chamber is to support the north Tulsa community by creating economic opportunities, building community awareness and involvement, promoting civic pride through the creation of cultural and educational activities, and providing entrepreneurship initiatives. 

“The mission of the Greenwood chamber is underpinned by a commitment to identify local needs, to prioritize our organization’s work and activities, and to deliver an accountable service to area businesses,” says Smith. “My hope is that the Greenwood Chamber and entire city of Tulsa will restore this once vibrant business and entertainment district back to the place it should be.”

She defines her goals for 2016 to include developing new funding sources, creating and encouraging ideas for creative programming for staff and community members, creating economic opportunities, and building stronger partnerships in the community, district and city of Tulsa.

Michael Patton, known as “Recycle Michael” during his 10-year tenure as executive director of the Metropolitan Environmental Trust, became the executive director of Land Legacy Trust in May. Land Legacy works to conserve and enhance urban and rural landscapes. Land Legacy works collaboratively with landowners and organizations to determine which conservation tools will be the most effective for each project and has, since January 2003, protected nearly 20,000 acres of open space valued at over $30 million. Land Legacy approaches this mission through three strategic initiatives: Green Cities, Watershed Protection and Farm and Ranch Conservation. Services offered include assisting with land acquisition, planning and conservation finance for creation of parks, trails and open space preservation.
Patton will be at home working to carry out the quality-of-life mission of Land Legacy. He can offer speakers with topics including land conservation, water quality protection, farm and ranch conservation, planning and conservation finance for creation of parks, trails and open space preservation.

In March 2015, Pepper Henry joined Gilcrease Museum as its new executive director. Henry comes to Gilcrease Museum from the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, where he served as director and beginning in 2013. 

Prior to the Heard, Henry enjoyed a successful six-year tenure at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Alaska’s premier art, history and science institution.
Henry is an enrolled member of the Kaw Nation and affiliated with the Muscogee Creek nation. His mother is of Kaw and Muscogee Creek descent. He was the first enrolled American Indian to lead the Heard in its 85-year history.

In September 2014, Gilcrease opened the Helmerich Center for American Research ().

The museum is currently being considered in the city of Tulsa’s Vision renewal discussions. The Vision 2025 sales tax renewal package is expected to go before voters in early 2016.

Gilcrease has proposed various building renovation projects as well as improvement projects, including creation of a museum entrance and streetscaping leading to the museum.

Michael Spurgeon became Broken Arrow’s city manager in September 2015. Spurgeon has previously served as director of administration for the City of St. Charles, Missouri; city manager for the City of Miami, Oklahoma; and township business administrator for Pemberton Township, New Jersey.

In 2016, Spurgeon plans to focus on maintaining the city’s financial efficiency—the city recently received a strong bond rating from Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s.
Another goal Spurgeon has enumerated is building public trust in city government. Since 2004, Broken Arrow has seen four city managers come and go. 

“Lack of continuity creates challenges. I want to tell the folks in the community that continuity is important to me; we want to provide stability,” Spurgeon says.

Also in 2016, Spurgeon plans to begin an annual financial newsletter in order to provide better public communication and government transparency, an interactive tracking software to allow for more efficient government responses to citizen requests, and a greater focus on tourism.

Updated 12-21-2015

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