By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer
A 25-year Muskogee County employee who has worked his way up through the ranks to deputy commissioner of District 1 is reaching for the highest rung on the ladder.
Bob Burgess, who has served more than 15 years as Commissioner Gene Wallace’s second in command, has declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the District 1 race. Wallace announced in March his decision to step aside at the end of his fourth term.
“I was already working for the county when Gene got elected, and I have been his deputy commissioner going on 16 years,” Burgess said. “I have operated every piece of equipment, worked on every road and bridge, and have been fully engaged in the administrative issues of county government.”
Burgess said he decided to compete for the post because he knows “the job and ... know I can do a good job.” In addition to knowing the ins and outs of a commissioner’s traditional role, Burgess said he has extensive experience dealing with the aftermath of natural disasters.
“Working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been one of my major jobs since I have been here,” said Burgess, who also serves as a community emergency response trainer for the state Office of Homeland Security. “It’s a lot more than getting the repairs done, it’s handling the extensive paperwork, working with FEMA and getting reimbursed” for all of the recovery costs.
In addition to the hands-on training throughout his 25-year tenure as a District 1 employee, Burgess said he has completed the educational requirements for commissioners, attended “purchasing school and dealt with virtually every aspect of county government.” Burgess said he knows the district, its needs and many of the residents, with whom he has dealt on a regular basis.
Burgess also cites as a positive his good working relationship with tribal officials from both the Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) nations. Burgess said these county-tribal relationships — important to both tribes, Muskogee County and all residents — have resulted in investments worth millions of dollars in the way of Muskogee County road improvements.
A major goal Burgess has set for himself, should he win the office, is an overall upgrade of district roads and bridges. He acknowledges that won’t be done all at once because of funding constraints, but it’s a goal he said is worth aiming toward.
“We just have to use our funds the best we can to fix our roads — the main thing we have to do is focus on certain areas, get them fixed, and then move on,” Burgess said. “If you fix them and get them done right, then that gives you the opportunity to move on to the next road and you don’t have to spend so much time going back.”
Burgess regularly volunteers as a patrol deputy for the sheriff’s office and has worked many years with the Muskogee County Emergency Management Office. He was recognized in 2012 by the Oklahoma Office of Emergency Management as contributor of the year for his service, leadership and training.
“I don’t know what the eloquent things are to say, I just know the job,” Burgess said. “I have worked hard for the citizens, and I just want them to give me the opportunity to do good things and be their commissioner.”
Primary elections are scheduled for June 24, with primary runoffs planned Aug. 26. This year’s general elections will be Nov. 4.
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or email@example.com.
Meet Bob Burgess
HOMETOWN: Fort Gibson area.
FAMILY: Wife, Sheila; son, William Burgess, and his wife, April; two grandsons, Carson and Cameron.
OCCUPATION: Deputy commissioner for District 1 in Muskogee County.
EDUCATION: Oktaha High School; two years of theology at Berean College; continuing education and training through Oklahoma State University.
RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Assemblies of God minister.
HOBBIES: Spending time with my grandsons.