Large crowd gathers at Cancun to hear mayoral candidates speak

• Questions asked about active shooter

At the March 2 meeting of the Woods County Democratic Party, two candidates for mayor – incumbent Mayor Kelly Parker and challenger Taylor Dowling – spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at Cancun restaurant. Each candidate talked about their own qualifications and answered questions from the crowd. Democratic party meetings are always open to people of any political view, said the organizers.

Candidate Dowling

First to speak was Taylor Dowling, who currently serves on the Alva City Council, representing Ward 2. He introduced himself to the crowd, noting that he was born and raised in Alva.

"I've been around the world but I've always wanted to make my home in Alva," Dowling said. "I've always believed it's through service to your community that you make the world a better place, and that's why I'm here: to do that.

"I think we've made some mistakes in the past, but I think Alva has a lot going for it. I think the answer to our future is economic growth through having events and bringing people in here so that we can share what makes our community great with them. And I know once they do that they'll want to make this place home, just like all of you."

Dowling thanked the crowd for coming, and stepped aside to give his opponent, Kelly Parker, his turn to speak.

Incumbent Mayor Parker

Also born and raised in Alva, Parker said his family has been in the area for five generations. "I love this town, and as Mr. Dowling said, our town does have a lot going for it. We've accomplished a lot in the last few years, and we can accomplish more.

"You know, why do I do this, because it is a, uh, it's a position where when you sign up to do something like this it's not for the money, it's certainly not for the headaches. But it is absolutely because when you're able to lead a group of people that have like interests in a forward direction, you can really accomplish some great things. We've had millions of dollars of improvements that have happened in our community over the last eight years. There's millions more to come. We have not necessarily had the best outcomes on everything at times, but I think that is life. We always have to anticipate that there's going to be some challenges, and I think in leadership you have to realize when you face those challenges sometimes you're not always faced with clear, black-and-white, you know, one right answer.

"When I became a nursing home administrator, the (certification) test was designed to give you four answers that are all correct, and you choose what's best. It's designed so you know there's always more than one way to skin a cat. It's important in a position like mayor that ... because you don't have any vote. At the end of the day, in Alva, Oklahoma, the mayor doesn't vote on anything. You can break a tie; I've done that once in the eight years that I've been mayor. But the important thing is that you provide information to your councilmembers so that they are able to have a good understanding of the issue, see all sides of an issue, so that when they come in that room to make decisions, they can make the best decisions they can in the best interests of our community.

"I have strong faith in God, and I am grateful that he has blessed me with the opportunity to serve our community and all of you – the people who work in the city, the people who live in the city, and the people who come visit our city. And I think we have more blessings ahead of us.

Questions Asked About Recent Active Shooter Incident at High School

Emcee Lenny Reed asked a question he said several people had instructed him to ask.

"A few days ago, there was an active shooter incident at the high school before school started. No message was sent out, to my understanding, to the parents," said Reed. "The police had caught it, and parents started showing up at 7:30" without understanding what was going on. Reed, a former history teacher, said, "The decision to close the school, in my area, that was always the decision of the superintendent." He said the people who had approached him about the issue were very upset and seemed sure that the police had done nothing. "Maybe they did; I just don't know about it," clarified Reed. "So, should there be a better program for an active shooter situation?"

Dowling answered first. "One of the good things our community does is it partners with the police department so that we have an officer there who's contractually obligated to take care of that. I've also talked with the superintendent about the many drills they're putting people through. He sees the schools as taking security seriously. If you've dropped kids off there lately, they run a pretty tight ship there," he said.

Dowling said the City wants to support the schools and help any way they can, but ultimately it's the school superintendent, the school leadership, that decides these kinds of school safety issues. "I think we have to be there to support them in their needs, but ultimately (those who run the school) know the day-to-day school and are educated in that field to understand what needs to be done."

He went on to express how kids today have to live with the knowledge that shootings have happened many times, and doing the drills likely brings that home to them. "It's an important reality that we must face in these days. We're blessed being in a small community that has had good gun education. I think it's one of those things where any time you have something that is a fear, the more you can understand and the more you can practice – you can never fully prepare – but it makes you more comfortable with the situation," Dowling said.

"I don't have a lot to add," said Parker. "The schools are taking measures to ensure the students are safe." He said he didn't know what the city's response had been, but said he could find that out if anyone wanted him to.

"I would," volunteered an audience member. Parker nodded. Discussion broke out among various parts of the crowd, and concern was etched deeply on many a face.

The concern was reflected on the candidates' faces as well. Parker spoke about how many of the area's agencies or other groups are working on all kinds of safety and emergency preparedness efforts, not only in terms of school shootings, but in terms of natural disasters or other unexpected crises. "When the superintendent calls, we always try to see what we can do to help," Parker said.

Several other questions were raised as well, including worries about collusion between the major stakeholders in this area to sideline those who aren't part of those organizations. Watch the lengthy video at http://www.alvareviewcourier for the full discussion.

General Election April 4

Seven officials for the City of Alva will be on the ballot in the April 4, 2023, general election. The filing period for candidates closed in early February. Offices open for election include the mayor, city clerk, city marshal and four city council seats. Those elected will be serving a four year term to expire in 2027.

Currently serving in those positions are Mayor Kelly Parker, City Clerk Melody Theademan and City Marshal Jim Scribner. The city council positions are all for Seat 2. Incumbents are Dr. Garrett Lahr, Ward 1; Gail Swallow, Ward 2; Sadie Bier, Ward 3; and Randy Stelling, Ward 4. Of the four city council seats up for election, three were filled by appointment. Stelling is the longest serving member of the city council. Bier did not draw any opposition so will retain her seat. Theademan was also unopposed and will continue as clerk.


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