Pott. Co. Commission hopefuls vie for seat

By Vicky O. Misa | Vicky.misa@news-star.com | (405) 214-3962 | Twitter: @Vicky_NewsStar
The Shawnee News-Star

Recently PAVE (Pottawatomie Advocates for Voter Education) hosted a candidate forum for several local and state level races on the Nov. 3 ballot.

One of the local races has two candidates seeking the Pottawatomie County District 2 seat.

On Nov. 3, voters will decide between Incumbent Randy Thomas and challenger Norman Smith for the position.

Candidate and Incumbent Randy Thomas, Pottawatomie County Commission District 2, is running for re-election Nov. 3. He recently participated in a local PAVE forum, answering constituents' questions.

The pair were asked about things like their road building and budget experience, what their top projects would be, and their stances on whether the County Fair should remain or exit the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center.

At one point it was clear there has been previous friction between the two candidates, as remarks by Smith insinuated Thomas was not inclined to enter into a conversation with him.

“I will not tell you that the District Attorney said, “Do not call me,” Smith said during the Q&A.

His comment spurred Thomas to play a voicemail recording left by Smith on his cellphone.

The voicemail message said, “Good afternoon, Randy, this is Norman Smith, (and a phone number was given). You need to make an appointment and come out and look some things on my road; we have a serious problem. If not, I will look at dealing with this in some other way. Thank you.”

Thomas said he considered the message a threat and contacted the District Attorney.

“He's (Smith) also threatened my road superintendent, and I did notify the D.A. and said, 'Listen, I interpret this as a threat.'

Road-building experience

Smith response: Actually running a road leveler or road grader or supervising the people that do it, I have absolutely none (experience). I have lived all over the country, where my dad was employed in building interstate highways. When I was in high school, my dad grated the state highway. I know what the equipment is, I know how to run it, I know that water flows downhill. You do not dump dirt in a bar ditch to correct it. You clean the bar ditch out, especially if it's 60 feet from the culvert. I know that you put the culvert at the bottom of the grade, not halfway up the hill. So, if you want my road experience, I've lived out here 20 years, I haven't had to grade my driveway one time — and it's on a slope that water flows across my driveway. I have not had a driveway wash problem or anything. I have explained this to County Commission and they don't seem to be able to take it up and do anything with it. So if you want somebody who can fix your road, I'm the dude. I know how to fix it, not what it takes. That is, I don't write checks; I will fix your road.

Candidate Norman Smith, running for Pottawatomie County Commission District 2, is seeking votes Nov. 3. He recently participated in a local PAVE forum, answering constituents' questions.

Thomas response: I've been in the concrete and construction business for 30 years. I have a crew that has 180 years experience combined. They have the experience it takes to maintain and build roads. I'm not motor operator, grader; that's not my position. Yes, 25 percent (of my time) is what I spend on the roads, and that's mainly brainstorming on Fridays with my road superintendent making sure the bucket is there for him, he's got the equipment and materials he needs on hand. But what you've got to realize is I sit on six different boards, commissions and councils. We just got through settling a $6.4 million method for the year. We're dealing through closing courthouses, so yes, I spend 25 percent of my time on roads. But I have a crew that's got almost 200 years of experience. That's what they're doing this for.

Budget experience

Moderator Ronnye Sharp asked each candidate what is the largest budget he has dealt with.

Thomas response: This would be $6.46 million this year. We were up 378,000 from last year's budget, which was ($)5.8 (million), so we're dealing with $6.4 million budget this year.

Smith response: Well, I have not dealt with any $100,000 budget; I will tell you that I'm founding president of a nonprofit corporation, called Frontier Walker. I was basically responsible for overseeing events, engaging the community and engaging people, including international guests at my hosted events. We were the No. 1 volkssport group in the state of Oklahoma. I also was president of the state association, yet I realize it takes money to build roads. I know to spend money. My basic life experience is I am debt-free. I have been debt-free for 20 years. I retired early, at the age of 56, and did not have to work. I am not interested in taking this job for income, nor career. I am only interested in it for building roads.

Top projects

Smith response: The top three things I think are more important than anything else is the leadership. I have integrity, I have honesty, and I will respect you. I don't care how you approach me, I will listen to you and I will resolve your problem. ... I will fix your roads.

Thomas response: … We're becoming the new east suburb, it's going to be a challenge. We're going to grow. We have 350 new addresses from Jan. 1 of this year to at this point right now for our addressing. So we are exploding District 2. I've got the three state projects that I'm going to get done — that's the intersection of 177 and Hardesty Road; we've got two bridges that's planned through the state of Oklahoma that will be coming along in 2023-24; and then our third will be economic development. We're going to grow and bring in some businesses for Shawnee Marketplace, even when the Macomb Ice stops, it produced 875,00 pounds of ice and they employ nine people now that will go in Oklahoma, that I was responsible for bringing them.

Fair event site

Sharp's next question was, “There are rumors that the County Fair may leave the expo center and find its own location. Do you support this effort? Why or why not?”

Smith response: I don't know about the County Fair being at the expo or anything. All I know about the County Fair is basically participation as a citizen.

Since my announcing running for office, I have been approached about improper things conducted at the County Fair or through the County Fair that affect a major industry in our state — namely, cattle. If you want the particulars on that, it's a matter of a court record. It required a judge signature to allow it and the individual who was winning titles right and left to participate — that's wrong. The County Commission needs to handle this before they have to go to law.

Thomas response: I think right now it's called a legacy event. There's no charge to the county at the expo. We've got an excellent facility there, so I think we need to keep it there for the time being. I think some people are disappointed with it, I understand that. But, I think, it's there, why not use it, it's protected as a legacy event, so I think we need to keep it there for the time being.

PAVE

The city broadcasted the forum live on the city website and on its cable channel, and recorded it as well.

Since there wasn’t a live audience allowed, questions were submitted in advance.

PAVE is a non-partisan voter education group that welcomes new members.

Check out news-star.com for Q&A responses from other candidates in other Nov. 3 races.