Voters will go to the polls Tuesday to decide who will serve on Yukon’s city council.
The position is an at-large seat currently held by Earline Smaistrla, who has served since 2015. She is the vice mayor. Before that, Smaistrla served on the city council from 2000 to 2009.
Smaistrla is being challenged by former city council member Ken Smith, who served from 2010 to 2015. Smith serve a two-year stint as mayor.
Other candidates include Jim Ketcher, a pharmacist who is running for public office for the first time; Jim Davis, a consultant, who has not held office, but served in political jobs in Washington and Missouri; Stephen Kerr, the manager of membership services at the Oklahoma City Zoo, who also is a first-time candidate; and Jeff Wootton, a sixth-grade teacher at Yukon Middle School. He is a member of the city’s board of adjustments.
If no single candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes in Tuesday’s election, a general election will be held in April among the two candidates with the most votes.
The Yukon Review recently emailed each candidate a series of questions. Below are their responses.
YUKON REVIEW: Why are you running for city council?
Earline Smaistrla: I am running for Yukon City Council at-large seat for the citizens of Yukon. Our city deserves an at-large council member who is dedicated to the current and future care and support for Yukon. I have over 12 years of experience in the Yukon City Council.
JIM DAVIS: My background is in management of large government programs. I have the ability to quickly isolate the cause of problems and to find solutions. Using these skills, I expect to help our city council, mayor and city manager to prioritize the needs of the community and resource appropriate solutions. I have lived in 29 locations around the world. Yukon is the type of community I appreciate — it’s a safe, welcoming and family-friendly small town. But it needs enough revenue to fund its requirements and it’s struggling. We need new business that compliments Yukon and makes it more attractive. Yukon has a great history starting in 1849 that can make it a noteworthy Route 66 destination. We must support our existing businesses and ensure the safety and support of our residents’ needs. I simply want to help the community.
KEN SMITH: To provide the much-needed experience and leadership our city council requires. No other candidate can provide the citizens of Yukon a proven track record as I can. Not one, including the incumbent, can name one of their own ideas that they have ever brought before the council and followed through with for the betterment of our quality of life. I will not need to learn on the job. I can and will hit the ground running when elected.
STEPHEN KERR: I am running for office because Yukon has changed so much since I moved after high school graduation in 2001. Moving back four years ago, I’ve experienced a Yukon that hasn’t developed with its population growth. Making my home here and hearing about the troubles facing Yukon city government, I feel my background in the nonprofit world would bring a “can do” attitude and a set of fresh eyes to the city council.
JIM KETCHER: I am running for office to take control of the city out of the hands of the few and give it back to all the residents of Yukon.
JEFF WOOTTON: I am tired of the citizens of Yukon being without a voice on the city council. Local government should be the most accessible form of governance, and in Yukon, I believe that it is lacking. Instead of the elected officials asking how they can best serve the citizens, the citizens are being told how things will work and are forced to adapt. I want to change this and be accessible, listen to the citizens, and implement things that are supported by the majority of the citizens and will benefit the city as a whole.
YR: What do you see as the most important issues facing Yukon, and how would you solve them?
ES: What I see as the most important issue facing Yukon is to have council members who really respect and care about our future and don’t create an agenda focusing on negativity.
JD: Revenue and water. Yukon has a nearly flat revenue stream, which simply maintains the city as it now stands. Communities nearby have seen increases of 3 to 16 percent in 2018, which allow them to offer more basic services at a lower tax rate and resource projects to upgrade or expand the capabilities of their community. Yukon’s water bills are very high. Compared to Oklahoma City, Yukon water bills are almost double during high-usage periods. This is largely because Yukon must buy 60 percent of its water from Oklahoma City, which charges a very high rate. Not only are our water rates high, I have a concern for contaminants in our water supply caused by the mixing of OKC water with well water from our Yukon-owned wells. This analysis is based on the 2017 Veolia water report, the latest available online and requires further analysis.
KS: There are a number of issues our city is dealing with. Water rates and supply. Limited land left for retail development. The need for additional athletic fields. There are no easy fixes for these issues. As far as water, the key is a new supply. It could come from a new aquifer or desalinization of our existing unusable well water. Either would require investment from our city. Our retail development is hamstrung by limited land available, meaning we need to be more wise with what is left. We cannot continue approving plats that include storage units and duplexes on prime Main Street frontage. Our athletic fields can be built but I believe in stages.
SK: The biggest issue facing Yukon is its water supply. I would propose damming the area where the two rivers meet and turning that area into a fun place for fishing and lake entertainment while also using that area as a new source for water. Our roads need some improvements and some even just slight adjustments to increase traffic flow. I would speak with ODOT and city planners to improve our roads and make them a priority.
JK: That people of Yukon don’t get involved in what happens to this city. In addition, everyone is not a fan of paying Oklahoma City money for water
JW: Yukon is losing tax revenue to Oklahoma City, and I believe that local business is being overlooked. I want to focus on attracting businesses and supporting our already established local, mom-and-pop businesses. Instead of hampering new business, I want to be a champion for new business, finding ways to help Yukon businesses grow and succeed. In addition to focusing on business, I want to bring accountability and transparency to the budget of Yukon’s city government. People should have confidence that their tax dollars are being spent to benefit them directly. I also want to work on improving traffic conditions within Yukon as we continue to grow.
YR: What would you change if elected?
ES: I find no need for change at this time.
JD: I would work to publicly list the priorities of the city so that residents could track progress and show how we are spending our revenue. I don’t like “pet projects” and would vote against them since they take money needed for new sidewalks, street and road maintenance, water purification and other infrastructure projects. I would propose that the city build a 1-, 2-, 5-, 10-, and 20-year plan that is revised annually as a living document with the goal of building a well-resourced, safe and durable community.
KS: I could use the same rhetoric that is used by every new candidate in every election. “I will bring transparency and integrity to the council.” The reality is I have done these things previously. I respect the volunteer spirit of the other candidates. Serving on the council is often a thankless service. The reality is that I will bring my and my constituent’s concerns to the forefront of the council for solid solutions and the greater good of our community.
SK: I would bring direct access to a member of the council with my weekly meet and greets at local restaurants. I would work to bring in curbside recycling. I will also work to bring in entertainment businesses for all ages!
JK: I would conduct polls of the residents on every issues before I voted on them. I would only vote the way the people decided.
JW: As is mentioned above, I want to bring more accountability and transparency to Yukon’s budget, but I also want to be more accessible to the public. Much of the reason I am running is due to the lack of accessibility and representation I believe the average Yukon citizen has.
YR: Why should I vote for you?
ES: I will continue to work for the city of Yukon and with respect for all citizens.
JD: At 72, I hear “we need new blood, we need younger people with new ideas.” Yes, new ideas are critical to managed growth. With age comes experience and ability. I have a proven background in management. Here are a few examples. As meteorologist In vharge of the National Weather Service Office in Kansas City, in just 14 months through training of my staff and coordination with state agencies, city councils and businesses, I improved the ranking of the office from 68th of 72 offices in the Central Region to eighth. As director of atmospheric research, development, test and evaluation for the U.S. Army, in just two years we improved a function, that was unknown, to be ranked best in the world in a two-week international competition in Russia. As chief science adviser for the U.S. Army, I saved $1.3 billion per year by isolating the root cause of maintenance failures to weapon systems and installation of effective solutions. This work led to an invitation from the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee to write language in the 2003 Senate Appropriations Act to establish a Defense Department-directed maintenance program that is now applied by all U.S. military services. Since then, I have worked with each of the military services and Congress as a management consultant. I can help Yukon. I want to help my home.
KS: You should vote for me because I am easily the most qualified for the at-large city council seat. We are not in a position where we can elect a candidate who does not understand the job. We cannot afford to lose a year or two of representation we need now. Nor can we afford to elect a candidate simply because they are nice or sweet. We need more than a yes or no vote from our council members. We need strong and proven leadership. I will provide that representation when I am elected.
SK: I’m committed to giving Yukon my skills, experience and time to help it grow while maintaining its community roots. We can grow and develop without losing our sense of community which I will persevere to maintain.
JK: I realized that this election is not about me; it’s about we. I am not running for power or status. I am running on giving the people control ‘of the city.
JW: You should vote for me because I fully intend on listening to the citizens of Yukon and implementing that which is best for them. My cellphone number is 418-6826, and I love it when people give me a call to talk about an issue they feel needs dealing with. If elected, I don’t intend on disappearing for the next four years until another election. I intend on consistently engaging with the community and being available to listen to the citizens of Yukon and serve them in all that I do.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.