MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

May 19, 2008

New faces set to be sworn in

If this year's municipal election stands for anything, it appears to be a widespread desire for change in local government.

Four of the five City Council seats up for grabs this year will be filled this week with new faces. The people behind those faces - John Tyler Hammons, Jackie Luckey, Shawn Raper and Bob Luttrull - bring with them new ideas and lots of promises.

The incumbents, two who stepped down and two who were turned out by voters, will be replaced Tuesday by a college freshman, the owner of a local title and abstract company, a real estate broker, and a longtime law enforcement officer and youth programs worker.

Longtime resident Clay Harrell said the last City Council shakeup of the proportion that occurred this year was in 1952, when he began his first of two stints as Muskogee's city manager.

That year, Harrell said, five City Council incumbents were replaced. Harrell attributed both high-turnover elections to the public's general distrust in government. In 1952, Harrell said, there appeared to be some resentment for a number of capital improvement bonds proposed during the preceding decade.

This year, he said, government distrust appears to be more widespread.

"As I pointed out ... there may have been several (newspaper) articles that planted doubts in the minds of voters about the City Council," Harrell said about voters' dissent, referring to a recent letter he submitted to the Phoenix. "The other thing is that there is just such a distrust in government. Congress is rotten, and there is not much of anything good coming out of the Legislature."

Any distrust in local government, Harrell said, is unfounded. Harrell said he knows all of the city councilors who were either unseated or stepped down and believes all of them served with honor.

Jeff Walker, a utility company employee, said he is one among many voters he believes cast a vote for change at City Hall. Walker, who said Muskogee's next mayor is his nephew, acknowledged trust in local government played a part in his decision at the ballot box.

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