MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

March 25, 2013

Wagoner Ward III candidates differ strongly

Hopeful says street, lighting in bad condition; incumbent points to strides made

— Two candidates competing for the Ward III City Council post in Wagoner differ dramatically with regard to the way they see the city and its needs.

Marshall Wilson, a retired police officer who worked in Wagoner 10 years and Oklahoma City for 21 years, said the streets and street lights in the city’s southeast quadrant “are in bad condition.” He wants to see that changed.

Wilson is running against Larry Abernathy, an incumbent who has served as a city councilor 29 years. Abernathy, a bus driver and mechanic for Wagoner Public Schools, disagrees with his challenger’s assessment.

“We have done a lot of things here,” Abernathy said, citing street improvements and work at the city’s water and wastewater treatment plants as examples. “We have updated the airport, and I am wanting to do some more improvements.”

Wilson said Ward III residents have told him the streets in that part of town “haven’t had anything done in 20 years.”

“I have had a lot of complaints from residents about the streets and the street lights in Ward III,” Wilson said, noting concerns among some residents who say Abernathy has been unresponsive to their needs. “They are in bad condition, and that’s why a lot of citizens are complaining.”

Abernathy said he responds to the concerns of every resident whenever he receives a complaint.

“Anytime I get a call, I have always called back and tried to fix what they need whenever it’s possible,” Abernathy said. “My goal is to answer their questions and try to please the people the best I can. I would love to try and please everyone as much as possible.”

Despite their differences of opinion about the condition of city streets and constituent services, both men agreed there is a need to bring more businesses and jobs to Wagoner. Neither candidate, however, has a clear plan to accomplish that goal.

Abernathy touted the city’s location, schools and other positive aspects that make Wagoner “an attractive place” to live and do business. He said Wagoner’s population of about 8,500 could be a drag on growth, but he said residents who live in nearby lake communities boost those numbers to near 30,000.

“We are halfway between Dallas and Kansas City, and for years we have been putting stuff on the city’s website,” Abernathy said. “To me, Wagoner is an attractive place to be. If I were a business owner, Wagoner would be where I would go.”

Wilson said he would like to see more industrial or manufacturing opportunities in Wagoner. He also would like to see more police officers on the streets and increased pay for city employees.

“It’s hard to make it, and some of them (city workers) tell me it is not much better than it was,” Wilson said, citing the low wages he received while serving on the city’s police force. “I would be willing to work with everybody on City Council to see what funds are available.”

Abernathy said he believes Wagoner has made a lot of progress during his tenure as city councilor. Abernathy said he would appreciate the opportunity to continue his service.

Wilson said, if elected, he “would be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week” to “sit down and see if we can work their problems out.”

All municipal candidates competing in Wagoner’s four City Council contests are invited to attend a political forum at 6 p.m. Thursday. The event is scheduled to take place at the Wagoner Civic Center.

Registered voters who want to vote by absentee ballot have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to submit an application. In-person absentee voting will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and April 1. Precinct voting will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 2.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

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