“This is our home and I take pride in our home. I do this stuff because I love my town. My home town,” John Alberts said recently.
Alberts, who represents Ward 2 on the Yukon City Council is nearing the end of his second term serving the ward. He is being forced to step down by term limits.
Yukon’s charter requires that city council members step away for at least one term after serving two consecutive terms. Voters on Tuesday were to decide who will replace Alberts on the panel. Shelli Selby and Erick Westfahl are the two candidates for the seat.
Alberts’ final regular city council meeting will be April 17.
Alberts has been an integral part of the city government for more than two decades. He previously served two terms in Ward 3, which currently is held by Donna Yanda. He also has served on the parks board and the planning commission.
Alberts, who is an attorney, said he knew from the time he was in high school that he would be playing a role in community service.
He grew up in Yukon, graduating from Yukon High School in 1983. He was the president of his junior and senior classes. He also was the secretary for a statewide student council association.
“I’ve always been interested in being involved in the government of the community that I lived in. At one time, I had aspirations to serve at the state or federal level. I don’t have that desire anymore, but I’ve always wanted to help my community,” Alberts said.
As his term ends on the city council, Alberts said he will shift his focus and find other ways to be involved.
“As the break gets closer, I am starting to have fun again. I am reminded what a fun city we live in and how important it is that we live in such a positive place,” he said. “This is a little bittersweet.”
Alberts recently moved his law practice from Oklahoma City to his home town. That, he said, will allow him to be even more involved.
“Am I done serving on the city council? Yes. Am I done serving the community? Never,” he said. “I will always be here.”
Alberts said he believes individuals have an obligation to leave the world better than they found it.
“I believe that deeply,” he said.
He also said it is not unusual for people to point out problems, but fewer people are willing to step up and provide solutions.
“I’ve always been a person that if I’m going to talk about it, I’m going to help be part of the solution,” he said.
That has never been more true than in 2015, when the city found itself in financial difficulties after inaccurate audits and financial advice left the city with fewer than $3,500 remaining its reserve funds.
Alberts was serving as the city’s mayor at the time.
“I am glad I was mayor, because I was able to evaluate the situation. I felt there were issues that needed to be addressed. It wasn’t anything that had happened in Yukon before. There wasn’t any script about how to handle it, there’s no policy about what you do if you think the city manager needs to be removed. So, at that time, with the support of the council, we did what we needed to do to serve the best interest of the community,” Alberts said.
Eventually, then-city manager Grayson Bottom resigned.
“It was difficult. (Then-acting city manager) Tammy (Kretchmar) was a big help at the time. We had to decide what we are going to do today — not a year or a month from now — but what are we going to do to pay the bills. So with Tammy and the staff’s help, we implemented a plan to make sure the employees got paid and the city was able to pay its bills.
“Then we began the search for a new manager. We never dreamed (former city manager) Jim (Crosby) would want to come back,” he said.
Crosby’s history with the city and his conservative background made him the easy choice, Alberts said.
But to right the city’s finances, tough decisions had to be made. They included eliminating several open positions, reducing the staff through both attrition and layoffs, and reducing spending extensively.
Today, the city’s reserve funds have more than $3.5 million.
“That’s pretty cool,” Alberts said.
“I am satisfied that as a group, the council was able to recognize, address and resolve the situation. On the other side of that, I think the city came out stronger than it was before. … I think we have addressed it appropriately. The city has moved forward,” Alberts said.
Alberts said he also is proud that the city has worked to improve the work environment of its employees. From offering free health screenings to various insurance offerings, he said the city’s workforce continues to improve.
“I like to think we are avoiding heart attacks by catching things like high blood pressure, diabetes and hypertension early,” he said.
In addition, that commitment to health has extended to the community through increased opportunities for activities with walking and biking trails, 5k runs and two gymnasiums that are available for the public.
“We’ve got a great park system. We have a Spirit League field. We’ve seen Ranchwood (Park) become an amazing park. We’ve seen Taylor Park develop. I’d like to see more trails and sidewalks, but the idea of keeping a healthy community is important to me. That’s the No. 1 thing we can do for the citizens and the No. 1 thing citizens can do for government is to be healthy people,” he said.
The other accomplishment is helping the city find an adequate water source for future growth on Yukon.
“It’s not exciting , but as Oklahoma grows and Oklahoma City, Yukon, Mustang and Piedmont grow, there is a pressing need that we have to continue to look at. We’ve secured a contract with Oklahoma City that guarantees that we will have water. But as central Oklahoma continues to grow, it will need to be addressed,” he said.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Alberts said he feels like he has been an advocate for the residents of Yukon while serving on the city council.
“I’ve tried to advocate for the citizens and advocate for our community, and I’ve tried to do it in a non-adversarial way. I like to think I have had a positive influence on the council. I try not to be adversarial, but try to be a unifying factor that encourages discussion,” he said.
He also said he hopes his work has helped unify the city.
“We’ve built a strong community. Whenever there are needs, there are people who are willing to step up and help,” he said.
Now that his time on the council is nearly complete, Alberts said he plans to continue to volunteer in the community, but also spend time with his wife, Carla, and their son John II, who is a student at Southwest Covenant.