Canadian County candidates answer questions at Redlands

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By Daniel Lapham,

Canadian County District 1 commissioner candidates Marc Hader and Wes Higgins answered questions and laid out their platforms to more than 25 county residents last Tuesday night at Redlands Community College.

Hader, R-Piedmont, and Higgins, R-El Reno, will meet in the Aug. 26 runoff election with the winner taking on Justin Joe Atkinson, D-El Reno, in November’s general election.

In addition to the commissioners race, candidates running for State Superintendant of Public Instruction and U.S. Senate candidate Connie Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, were also present.

But it was the race for District 1 commissioner that drew the most interest and in particular how they would treat the Children’s Justice Center. The center is supported by a one-third cent permanent sales tax that has been generating over $500,000 per month. In the past, some have sought to have the sales tax redirected to help support other areas of county government. Those efforts have met with staunch resistance.

At least 10 different questions regarding the justice center were submitted. The majority of the questions wanted to know if the dedicated sales tax that supports the center should be redirected or cut.

Both commissioner candidates said they had toured the center and each said the staff and administration do an “excellent job” and provide a valuable service to the Canadian County community.

“I don’t know how many kids there are at the center off the top of my head, but I know they are doing a great job,” Higgins, an El Reno Republican, said. “They are in the black and I believe they are doing great with the resources they have been provided.”

Hader appeared to agree.

“I don’t know specifics in terms of the numbers, but I got to do a tour of the facility and it was a positive experience,” Hader said. “I believe it is safe to say that both of your candidates believe in the value of the juvenile justice center and support it.”

Another question addressed the scope of duties expected of a county commissioner.

“Roads are 20 percent of a commissioner’s job,” read moderator Juanita Krittenbrink. “How would you administer the rest of the duties required of your position including management of facilities like the courthouse, jail, etc.?”

“It has been my experience that the smaller or more rural a county is, the more roads and bridges are a part of a commissioner’s job,” Hader said. He said his background as an administrator qualifies him to handle not only the roads and bridges but also the management of all projects and responsibilities of a commissioner.

Higgins agreed that the percentage spent on roads and bridges is higher than 20 percent, but also said he sees many areas that should be addressed immediately in addition to bridges and roads.

“I believe the addition to the jail should be addressed immediately,” Higgins said. “If we broke ground today it would be at least a year before we could move in. We need more space there.”

With a bachelor’s degree in management from Southern Nazarene University and experience in project management, Hader said the future of Canadian County depends on commissioners’ abilities to manage multiple projects and play the role of administrator.

“I have the interpersonal skills necessary to do this job as it becomes more and more of a management position,” Hader said.

Higgins said he is already immersed in county government as the current foreman for District 2 under Commissioner David Anderson.

“My degree is from the school of hard knocks,” Higgins said. “I have run my own business for over 20 years. I am doing many of these things now as District 2 foreman and I believe these things speak for themselves.”

Daniel Lapham is a reporter for the sister paper of the Mustang News, the El Reno Tribune. He can be reached at dlapham@elrenotribune.com.