Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election when his term ends in one year.
He has served for the last 13 years, longer than any other mayor in the city’s history.
Cornett sat down with Free Press late on the same day of the announcement to talk about the year ahead and the challenge of being the city’s mayor.
He was reluctant to talk about the past, saying that there is still much to do in the remaining year before his term ends.
Opening the first senior center, groundbreaking for the new Central Park and opening the 20th season in the baseball park in Bricktown are among the city’s achievements he is looking forward to.
He anticipates calling a bond election so that streets can be resurfaced, a citywide need.
“Nothing would delight me more than to leave office knowing our economy is heading in the right direction and that we’ve addressed the infrastructure needs,” Cornett said.
And there are challenges.
Sales taxes have been coming in below expectations causing the city to impose a hiring freeze just as some of the most seasoned police officers and firefighters are retiring.
“That’s an issue,” said Cornett. “We pride ourselves on public safety.”
But city officials are hopeful about the economic situation. Economists told them in a budget workshop earlier this month they are expecting an upturn in Oklahoma’s economy by June.
We asked what it takes to bring together so many different people to accomplish a city’s goals.
“It’s the unity,” he said.
“I think 20 years ago, it was the result of the bombing and the economic collapse of the 80s. We’d been through so much. When the MAPS projects started to open up in the late nineties, it’s almost as if people for the first time had a real sense of pride in the community.”
The biweekly Oklahoma City Council meetings are when Cornett is the most visible to residents either through the city’s cable channel or in person.
Anyone can attend and even put their name on the list to speak for up to three minutes during the public comments time at the end of the meeting.
Cornett is respectful of everyone who speaks, seeking to understand their concerns and problems.
And people do speak to the council nearly every time it meets.
In some cases, they really need to speak to someone on the city staff, but they just don’t know who. It’s not unusual for the mayor to direct them to talk to a staff member who then takes them out in the hallway to visit about their concern.
In 2014 one of the council members, Dr. Ed Shadid and Cornett were engaged in what became a bitter campaign for mayor.
These days, to watch the proceedings, one would hardly know.
Shadid remains on the council and Cornett presides as they routinely carry out the business of the city.
“In this city, one of the most enjoyable aspects of this job is that the council and I get along,” said Cornett. “Maybe not every vote, every meeting, but in general we get along and we are putting the city ahead of our own personal needs.”
“I think that’s kind of Oklahoma City’s secret ingredient.”