The Oklahoma City Council chose Pastor Lee E. Cooper, Jr. for interim Ward 7 Council member Tuesday after considering 18 applications for the post.
He will be sworn in at the beginning of the next Council meeting June 19 and take his seat immediately.
Cooper has already been involved in city government serving as the Ward 7 Planning Commissioner. He will resign that post before being sworn in as a Council member.
Mayor David Holt said that the choice was “something that you simply couldn’t deny” when considering the “universal praise” Cooper received both from the community and from those in City Hall who had worked with him through the Planning Commission.
Cooper is well-known in Ward 7 as the pastor of Prospect Missionary Baptist Church, 2809 N Missouri Ave, Oklahoma City. He has served in that position since 1987.
He earned a doctorate of Humane Letters from Virginia University of Lynchburg in 2005.
Even though Cooper was not available for comment when we visited the church Tuesday afternoon, we were able to talk with Penny R. Emery, a local realtor, and director of the summer children’s program staff.
“He’s a native of the east side and this community. And he is a son of St. John Missionary Baptist Church,” Emery said. “He knows this community.”
Both congregations have deep histories of strong community activism and advocacy but not radicalism.
Free Press reported the Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration in 2017 that involved Cooper and other east side pastors in a joint community service at St. John Missionary Baptist Church.
“I think we all feel that the act of appointing is no substitute for democracy,” said Mayor David Holt just before announcing Cooper’s appointment.
“But we are all grateful that there is a democratic resolution coming in August and in November so the voters of Ward 7 will have the opportunity to choose their long-term representative.”
Holt said that Cooper has pledged not to run for election in the general primary Aug 28.
The mayor said the “philosophy was that we should choose someone who was not going to run,” and that “the people of Ward 7 should have a blank slate and would not give anyone the power of incumbency.”
Cooper will serve until voters elect someone to fill the seat in a primary special election Aug 28. If no candidate wins 51 percent of the vote, the runoff will be Nov 6.
The city charter required the council to make the appointment and set a date for an election.
The filing period will be June 13-15 for the Aug primary.
Maps of all 8 wards are HERE.
City staff provided the following information about the process:
Candidates must submit a written declaration of candidacy, along with how the candidate wants his or her name to appear on the ballot.
Candidates must include a cashier’s or certified check for $200, or a petition supporting the filing signed by at least 500 registered voters eligible to vote for the candidate. The check will be returned if the candidate is unopposed, receives more than 15 percent of the votes cast in the primary special election or advances to the runoff.
Candidates must file their declaration of candidacy and check or petition to the Oklahoma County Election Board, 4201 N Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73105-5210, (405) 713-1515.
The Oklahoma City Council has nine members: the Mayor, who is elected citywide, and one member representing each of Oklahoma City’s eight Wards.
The Council is nonpartisan and members serve part-time at the head of the City’s Council-Manager form of government. The Mayor’s annual salary is $24,000, and Council members’ annual salary is $12,000.