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By Aaron Diment
At the end of a long, frigid week in Oklahoma, one El Reno man found more warmth than he was looking for.
While driving north from Mustang on Cemetery Road, Nic Parker said he heard an ominous knocking noise coming from his truck engine. Parker quickly called Lance Hopkins, district manager for Southern Comfort Portable Toilets, who prompted the driver to pull over as soon as possible to assess the vehicle’s condition. As Parker pulled off Cemetery Road and onto S.W. 10th Street – at the entrance of the Belmont Crossing housing addition – he saw smoke and flames erupting from under the hood of the vehicle. Grabbing his personal effects, Parker escaped the burning vehicle and dialed 911.
As scorching-hot flames began engulfing the vehicle, Oklahoma Fire and Rescue crews rushed to the scene, including Maj. Tim Townsend. No one was injured in the fire, which was hot enough to melt the truck’s radiator, the major said.
“They were coming up from Louisiana and they threw a rod in the engine,” Townsend said. “They pulled off the road and that’s what caught the truck on fire, it blew that motor.
“It (the fire) didn’t get back into any of the other tanks or anything, just strictly in the front compartment in the cab,” he said.
The vehicle, a white Dodge Ram Heavy Duty flatbed, carried several large containers of a blue liquid, which Townsend identified as dyed water for a septic system. It was part of a fleet owned and operated by Southern Comfort Portable Toilets, which has locations in Louisiana and El Reno.
Hopkins said the truck was about to be decommissioned and some of its components would be re-purposed within the company.
“We were retiring this truck, actually taking it to the shop and swapping the tanks out,” Hopkins said. “It’s seen its day.”
By Traci Chapman
The evening of Feb. 6 was a busy one for Mustang police dealing with two alleged crime scenes involving “heavy weaponry.”
The first call came in at 5:46 p.m., when officers were called to a home in the 200 block of West Pines Way, Mustang Police Chief Chuck Foley said. Residents at the home said there was a knock at the door and when they opened the door, two black males allegedly forced their way into the house.
“One of the suspects was armed with an assault rifle, the other carried a handgun,” Foley said.
The suspects – Toron Corai Jermaine Hayes, 22, and a 16-year-old juvenile – then demanded money, allegedly taking cash, cell phones and video games worth almost $6,550, the chief said. They left the scene in a black Honda, which was traced to an apartment in the 9100 block of South Shartel in Oklahoma City. The search allegedly turned up property stolen from the Mustang home, as well as the assault rifle, the chief said.
“With the assistance of an Oklahoma City Impact Unit, we were able to get a search warrant served and both suspects were located and arrested,” Foley said.
According to police reports, the pair was arrested on complains of robbery with a firearm, weapon used in the commission of a felony and conspiracy. No charges had yet been filed against Hayes as of Tuesday, according to the Oklahoma State Courts Network, and prosecutors said they were not sure when that would be done; they said Tuesday they were working for an order allowing them to charge the juvenile as an adult. Both suspects were identified as Oklahoma City residents, officials said.
The second incident occurred in Mustang WalMart parking lot, when officers were dispatched on a report of shots fired there. Just after 9 p.m. as police were heading to investigate, Mustang dispatch received information a silver Dodge Charger was seen traveling eastbound on East state Highway 152. An officer then spotted what was believed to be the same vehicle near Highway 152 and County Line Road, Foley said.
“The officer attempted to pull the subject over, but he increased his speed and the officer was forced to activate his emergency lights and pursue him,” the chief said.
The chase lasted for several miles, crossing into Oklahoma City limits, and Oklahoma City Police and Oklahoma Highway Patrol was also involved in the pursuit, Foley said. Stop sticks eventually deflated the front tires of the car near Interstate 40 and Council Road, the chief said.
The alleged suspect was identified as Justin Smallwood, 29, also of Oklahoma City. After he was stopped, Foley said investigators uncovered an “arsenal” in his car, including an automatic weapon, tactical vest with “several fully loaded magazines” and two loaded pistols, allegedly found on the vehicle’s passenger seat.
Two felony counts – use of a vehicle to discharge a weapon and attempting to elude a police officer – were filed Feb. 7 against Smallwood. If convicted, the Oklahoma City man could face between two years to life on the first charge and one to five years and a maximum $5,000 fine on the second. No hearings have yet been set in the case, assigned to Canadian County District Court Judge Gary Miller.
By Traci Chapman
Mustang students will attend classes Feb. 17, after members of Mustang Public Schools Board of Education on Monday approved a schedule change.
Board members voted unanimously to cancel the scheduled day off, marked on the district’s calendar as a professional development day. Board member Amanda Strassle was absent.
The move came upon the recommendation of Superintendent Sean McDaniel. He said school should be held to make up, in part, days missed because of recent inclement weather. Mustang schools have been closed due to weather five days this school year.
“What we want to keep in mind is the benefit to the students,” McDaniel said.
Spring break is scheduled March 17-21, with Friday, March 14, listed as an additional day off for teachers and students, according to the district calendar. McDaniel said March 14 would be used as a professional development day, but teachers and staff who planned vacations because the day was supposed to be off would be able to utilize personal leave time so their plans would not be disrupted.
The decision was made less than one week before the scheduled day off, forcing the city of Mustang to cancel two planned activities set up for students who were anticipated to be out of school Feb. 17. A special one-day activity and babysitting class, both scheduled at Mustang Recreation Center, would not be held, officials there said Tuesday.
Mustang has built time into school days to help alleviate the possibility of having to add days due to inclement weather, McDaniel said. Although the district wasn’t obligated by law to make up the days already lost, he recommended the move because of testing.
“Losing one day wouldn’t impact all students, but it could have an adverse effect on some of them,” he said.
The bulk of the district’s testing happens in April, although some reading tests were scheduled for Feb. 26, administrators said. Adding instructional time Feb. 17 would help students who might be struggling, especially after missing two days in recent weeks, they said. It also lessened the possibility of having to add days to the end of the school year, McDaniel said.
“I’m not sure the value of bringing people back after Memorial Day,” he said. “I think we’ll have half-empty classrooms.”
While the board made the decision to cancel the planned Feb. 17 holiday, a decision was not made about a possible closure at the end of March.
McDaniel presented to members the issue of a March 31 rally at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Sponsored by the Oklahoma Education Coalition, the rally is aimed at drawing attention to education funding issues across the state, said Ryan Owens, executive director of United Suburban Schools Association.
“We’re going the wrong way, something needs to be done to turn this around,” Owens said.
The rally would give educators the chance to speak to legislators, to determine if “public education in Oklahoma is a priority,” McDaniel said.
“Since 2008 public education has been cut by over $200 million, and we have had a minimum of seven state mandates,” he said. “Some of those have not been fully funded, some not funded at all.”
Some districts have already approved canceling classes March 31, among them Tulsa Public Schools, Bixby, Broken Arrow and Sapulpa. While Mustang’s board did not approve closure, they expressed support for McDaniel’s efforts. The superintendent said he wanted to speak to teachers to determine the level of support for the rally and did not yet know whether teachers should take time off to attend or school should be closed that day.
District staff could not be compelled to attend the rally should classes be canceled, administrators said.
In other business, board members approved the 2014-2015 calendar, with the exception of graduation, which was scheduled for Sunday, May 17. Dr. Jim Davis requested assistant superintendent Charles Bradley check into options. Space was reserved at Lloyd Noble Arena, which has been the school’s practice for several years, Bradley said.
“Personally, I think Sunday is a horrible day to have graduation,” Davis said. “I think we need to explore other options.”
Bradley said he was not sure why the school’s graduation fell on a Sunday, but he would research the issue and report back to board members.
Bradley also reported on the status of the district’s redistricting efforts. Administrators expected to make a draft plan available for public review in the “next week or two,” Bradley said. The proposal is expected to be considered by the board during its March meeting.
“Our goal is to have enough time for people to digest it,” he said.
In addition to having information on the district website, an informal forum would be scheduled, McDaniel said.
“We can gather comments and questions,” he said. “That’s coming in the next week to 10 days.”
By Ray Dyer
A plan to possibly build a new Canadian County fairgrounds just to the east of the Gary E. Miller Children’s Justice Center may be gaining momentum.
Commissioner Phil Carson said Tuesday morning the idea for a new fairgrounds, an idea that was first proposed several years ago, has resurfaced and it may be time to consider finding a way to make it a reality.
Carson said the Canadian County Fair Board has been discussing the idea. With the rapid population growth in the county, Carson said having a larger and more modern fairgrounds probably makes sense.
“You look at the Yukon Chamber of Commerce banquet,” Carson said. “It’s going to be held at 44th and Lincoln in Oklahoma City because we don’t have a place here in the county that can hold it.”
Mustang and Yukon high school graduations are also held outside of Canadian County because of space limitations.
Carson said it might be time to consider a county sales tax that could build and fund a new fairgrounds. He said he would strongly oppose any attempt to tap into the .35 cent sales tax dedicated for the juvenile justice center for a fairgrounds project or any other project.
Carson said discussions were in the early stages and how such a move would impact the existing fairgrounds in El Reno had not received much attention.
The county owns a quarter section of land just to the east of the juvenile center on state Highway 66. Several years ago members of the fair board had talked about relocating the fairgrounds to that site. However, the need for a new county jail may have pushed the idea to the back burner. Now, with a new jail addition open and the project not requiring an investment from taxpayers, the fairgrounds idea may be the next public project presented on a county level.
Carson said the timing may be right for a new fairgrounds. He said he would like to see a “place where programs for kids” could be offered to keep them busy, “the good kids as well as the bad kids,” Carson said.
“It would be wonderful if we had a facility like they have in Garfield County or down in Grady County at Chickasha,” Carson said. “Look at the events that take place at the state fairgrounds in Oklahoma City.”
Carson said Canadian County, with a new and modern fairgrounds and its proximity to the state’s largest city, could compete for events that may not be as large as those held at the state fairgrounds, but could provide a substantial “economic boost” to the county.
Carson said the county commissioners could oversee a new fairgrounds, working in conjunction with “various boards” in the area.
This morning polls opened at 7 a.m. for voters in Mustang School District, who will decide the fate of a $7 million bond issue.
Voters in Mustang’s Ward 6 will also choose among three men contending for that council seat.
Polls close at 7 p.m.; they are listed below for your convenience.
Mustang School District
211 – New Dimensions Church, 701 N. Cemetery Road, Yukon
215 – Church of Christ, 11700 N.W. 10th St., Yukon
221 – Canadian Valley Technology Center – Cowan Campus, 1701 S. Czech Hall Road, Yukon
223 – Canadian Hills Nazarene Church, 11744 W. Reno Ave., Yukon
224 – International Pentacostal Assembly Church, 12221 Park Ave., Yukon
225 – Westpointe Chrysler Jeep Dodge, 11001 W. Reno Ave., Yukon
227 – United Methodist Church of the Good Shepherd, 10928 S.W. 15th St., Yukon
228 – Sara Road Baptist Church, 2015 N. Sara Road, Yukon
300 – Holy Spirit Catholic Church, 1100 N. Sara Road, Mustang
301 – Mustang Community Center, 1201 N. Mustang Road, Mustang
302 – Mustang Nazarene Church, 700 E. Highway 152, Mustang
303 – Church of Christ West Metro, 4900 S. Cemetery Road, Yukon
304 – Mustang Heights Baptist Church, 646 W. Highway 152, Mustang
306 – Chisholm Heights Baptist Church, 2243 W. Highway 152, Mustang
308/309 – Lakehoma Church of Christ, 2124 W. Highway 152, Mustang
Mustang City Council Ward 6
300 – Holy Spirit Catholic Church, 1100 N. Sara Road, Mustang
302 – Mustang Nazarene Church, 700 E. Highway 152, Mustang
303 – Church of Christ West Metro, 4900 S. Cemetery Road, Yukon
By Traci Chapman
A property that has been a blight on Mustang’s busiest intersection is about to get a major facelift, bringing with it at least one national tenant, city officials said.
On Tuesday, the six Mustang Council members present unanimously approved a development agreement between the city and KG Holdings/W.E.P. Land Holdings for development of the former Wal-Mart/Ace Hardware store, located on the northeast corner of state Highway 152 and Mustang Road. Ward 6 Councilman Donald Mount was absent.
Ken McGee, developer of the project, has entered into a lease with Stage for a portion of the existing store. The lease is expected to be finalized Feb. 14, broker Chris Reed said Tuesday, with construction beginning as early as Feb. 17, he said. Stores are expected to be ready for occupancy sometime in the third quarter, Reed said.
“They’ve basically just been waiting for us,” Mayor Jay Adams said.
In addition to a complete remodel of the existing 34,998-square-foot building already onsite, McGee plans to add almost 8,000 square feet to the complex, allowing for the addition of several more retail stores, Reed said.
“We have interest from another national tenant for about 5,000 square feet and we’re speaking to several others as well,” he said.
Announcements on additional tenants could be forthcoming in the near future, Reed said.
McGee has lived in Mustang for about 14 years, Reed said. His company also owns West End Pointe in Yukon, which includes the complex housing West End Pointe 8, as well as the shopping center where Lowe’s, Kohls and Staples are located, he said.
“We wanted to do something in Mustang, bring something to the local community,” Reed said.
The city offered financial incentives to bring the complex to Mustang, according to the development agreement approved Tuesday. Those incentives, totaling up to $580,000 over a 10-year period, will “discourage the loss of existing businesses and jobs, increase sales and ad valorem taxes, promote development and diversification of the economy, aid in the elimination of unemployment and underemployment, support expansion of commerce, increase the city’s and the public’s economic security, promote the public good and welfare, and generally promote economic growth and prosperity” in Mustang, the agreement stated.
Mustang’s long-range plan has targeted areas of state Highway 152, and specifically two aging and dilapidated strip centers located at its intersection with Mustang Road, Adams said. McGee’s development will go a long way to begin revitalization of that area, the mayor said.
“We’re hopeful this is just the first of many changes to those spots,” he said.
Under the agreement, Stage is required to generate at least $58,000 annually for the first 10 years. In return, the city will pay monthly installments of about $4,833 – $58,000 annually – to KG, beginning in December 2014. That date could fluctuate slightly, should construction be delayed by weather or unforeseen circumstances, City Manager Tim Rooney said. Incentives are a common tool used by cities to obtain retailers and have been used in Mustang many times, officials said.
Rooney and Robert Coleman, Mustang community development director, as well as several staff and council members worked “long and hard” to make the new development a reality, Adams said.
“We really need to applaud our staff, as well as our council, for their forward thinking in moving our city into the future,” the mayor said. “It’s a real bonus that we have a local developer, someone who really believes in our city, who has brought this to Mustang.”
By Traci Chapman
On Tuesday, Mustang Public Schools officials will take a second try at a bond issue aimed at expanding extracurricular activity resources, upgrading technology and providing storm shelters at some schools.
The $7 million proposal is different than a $4.05 million bond issue rejected by voters last November, although it does aim to provide funds for some of the projects listed in the original plan. While the November issue did get a majority of the votes – about 57.3 percent of the ballots cast were in favor of the plan – school bond issues require a 60 percent majority in order to pass.
A second proposition, $750,000 for six new route buses, was approved by voters.
Mustang Superintendent Sean McDaniel said the $1.6 million slated for “technology infrastructure, equipment and software for classrooms and schools” are items needed across the district. These items include smartboards, 3-D printers, tablets, laptops, iPads and lab equipment for use district-wide in its Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – STEM – program.
“The demands and expectations of our society require that our kids are proficient with the use of technology,” McDaniel said. “Our students will have the ability to acquire technological skills that will allow them to compete at the secondary and post-secondary levels and to allow them to be career-ready.”
Other courses that would benefit by these funds would be robotics and engineering courses, the superintendent said. Mustang High School students have performed well in robotics competitions held this year, an area that has gained interest in recent years, officials said.
If passed by voters, $1 million would be designated to “constructing, equipping, renovating and furnishing” storm shelters at Mustang Education Center and Mustang High School campus, according to the resolution approved by school board members. While each school has refuge areas, older sites do not have shelters certified by Federal Emergency Management Agency, McDaniel said.
“The two areas that need attention in our district are on the high school campus (we actually do currently have areas of refuge at MHS) and at the MEC (Mustang Education Center),” McDaniel stated in a recent email.
The cost to build FEMA-certified shelters in older school sites, such as Mustang Elementary School, would be cost-prohibitive, officials said. That school does have a basement that has been historically used to shelter students during storms.
Some of Mustang’s older elementary schools would see improvements, if Tuesday’s bond issue passes. New playground equipment – to the tune of $200,000 – would be purchased for Mustang and Lakehoma elementary schools, while $100,000 would be allocated to upgrade lighting at Trails Elementary School and Mustang North Middle School.
Another $800,000 would be used for acquisition of land for future construction of new schools or other buildings in the south and central areas of the district.
Extracurricular activities funds
The bulk of funding in the $7 million proposal would be used for extracurricular activities. Those programs are as follows:
- $375,000 for district “arts programs.” This would include instruments, stage lighting, software and band uniforms.
- $300,000 for “constructing, equipping and furnishing a new barn for the agricultural education program.” The district’s barn, utilized by FFA and 4-H students, is located at 7916 S. County Line Road.
- $1.225 million for “constructing, equipping and furnishing a softball training facility for use by the MHS softball and baseball teams.”
- $1.4 million for “constructing, equipping and furnishing a new ROTC training and instructional center” at Mustang High School.
More than 200 students participate in Mustang High School’s band program alone, with hundreds more taking middle-school level classes, as well as drama, choir and other arts activities, officials said. The $375,000 would help fund needs for lighting, uniforms, instruments and other items used by those individuals.
McDaniel said about 200 students currently participate in the district’s agriculture programs, a number which has caused issues because of a 37-year-old barn that is not suited to that level of activity.
“We have so many students who need space to raise animals that each pen in the barn has two or three animals in it,” McDaniel said. “The pens are designed for one animal to each pen.
“Not only is this an unhealthy practice, it makes it nearly impossible to properly raise the animals,” he said.
Because of the aged barn and lack of space, the district has been forced to turn away students interested in participating in the program, the superintendent said. It has also meant that other needed activities – like welding stations, lab areas and needed equipment – must go by the wayside.
“AgEd teaches many life skills, from leadership to discipline to a good work ethic,” McDaniel said. “Our kids need more space.”
With Mustang competing in 6A classification and with Mustang High School listed as the largest high school in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, an expansion of the district’s baseball complex was essential, the superintendent said.
“Because of its size, only four to six kids at a time can use the facility,” McDaniel said. “A new facility would allow 25 to 30 kids to use the facility at one time and would provide the same opportunities for our kids as other 6A programs provide for theirs.
“Baseball and softball, along with other athletic programs in Mustang, provide opportunities for our students to learn about sportsmanship, leadership, teamwork and other valuable life skills that they will take with them long after they graduate,” he said. “Providing quality facilities that allow these kids to reach their full potential is important.”
Like the district’s agriculture education program, Junior ROTC is an area that has been underfunded, with students utilizing three classrooms at Mustang High School, as well as an old physical education building, McDaniel said.
“The creation of a stand-alone facility would free up much-needed space at the high school for academic offerings like STEM labs or technology labs,” the superintendent said. “Unfortunately, we have run out of space for the program, and the current facility would require in excess of $600,000 to bring it up to standards that would allow us to continue using it.”
The proposed $1.4 million JROTC housing would include a training area, offices, classrooms and storage, McDaniel said.
“The Mustang JROTC program offers opportunities to students who may not have found a niche anywhere else,” he said.
“We want what’s best for our students, to give them every opportunity we can to excel, to achieve and to learn the skills they need down the road in life,” McDaniel said.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday.
By Traci Chapman
Two of three candidates for the Mustang Ward 6 City Council seat listed their priorities of what they hoped to accomplish if elected.
The election will be Tuesday. Incumbent Donal Mount declined to respond to questions about the election posed to the candidates by the News.
“Upon the advice of my attorney I have been instructed to ‘not’ correspond with you,” Mount stated in a Feb. 3 email sent in response to a News email which contained questions.
Mount has been embroiled in a controversy with city officials over what they contend is a form of harassment. Mount has made more than 70 open records requests during the past 18 months. Mount took issue with a recent story in the News in which City Manager Tim Rooney said the records requests have become burdensome and “bullying.”
The two men who are challenging Mount for the seat, Jess Schweinberg and Nathan Sholund, did respond to the questions posed, many of which were posed to the News by its readers. Those questions were:
- What are the three top priorities you would like to accomplish if elected (re-elected)?
- Please expand a little more on your background and how it will help you in the upcoming council term.
- What do you believe is the most important quality for a city councilman?
- Is being able to work together with city staff, fellow council members and others an important part of the job?
- Are there things going on in the city you would like to see changed? If yes, please detail and advise how you would go about seeking those changes.
- Would you like to provide any information about your family (names, etc., and how they have inspired you to serve your community, etc.)?
- Any other comments you would like to make?
Decision could be made in February
In December, 56-year-old Schweinberg and Sholund, 25, filed their intentions to challenge Mount for the Ward 6 seat. The three men are competing for a council seat, which is non-partisan and has a three-year term. If one candidate receives a majority – more than 50 percent of the vote – during the February primary, that person will be elected to the seat, Canadian County Election Board Secretary Wanda Armold said in December. If none of the three candidates hits the majority mark, the two individuals who receive the most votes will move on to the April 1 general election, she said.
Schweinberg has been a homeowner in Mustang since 2000, having moved here in 1999 from Yukon, where he raised his family. Schweinberg was recently appointed to his second term on Mustang Board of Adjustment and is managing partner with Metro Sign Corp., an Oklahoma City sign manufacturer.
Schweinberg and his wife of 38 years, Cindy, are charter members of Mustang Crime Stoppers, involved in the organization’s start-up, as well as creating bylaws, signage and other activities, he said. Schweinberg’s son, Troy Schweinberg, lives in Mustang with his family; daughter Carla Kudrna and her family live in Tuttle. Schweinberg has been active in youth organizations, including the Yukon Jays. He served on that board for more than 10 years, the last five of those as president, he said. He came out of coaching “retirement” to join Troy leading the T-ball team of two of his granddaughters, he said.
“Finding problems and solutions are different character traits, I am about finding solutions,” Schweinberg said.
Sholund works at the Federal Aviation Administration and studies aeronautics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He was raised in Mustang since 1992, graduating from Mustang High School in 2008. Sholund served in the U.S. Navy on an amphibious assault ship and was deployed in 2009-2010, he said. His father is pastor of Life Tabernacle UPC, and the Mustang man said he returned home to be near family and friends after his discharge.
“I have given back to my country, now I would like to give back to my town,” Sholund said
What are the three top priorities you would like to accomplish if elected (re-elected)?
- Schweinberg – To make sure the infrastructure is of such to sustain the present growth of the city, being selective on what we allow, so as not to take away from the appearance of the city.
- Sholund – My top three priorities for this city if elected would be to help with the general care and maintenance around the city, such as roads that are in desperate need of repair. Also, I would like to see some kind of expansion of roadways as well in the near future, like on 59th or why 152 for that matter around 5 o’clock for that matter is clogged and backed up with traffic. I would love to see more roads or wider lanes put in to help with that. And lastly I would like to see Mustang growing in a good and healthy positive way, with more families moving to Mustang, along with businesses and be able to keep that small town feel here.
Please expand a little more on your background and how it will help you in the upcoming council term.
- Schweinberg – Recently completed my first term on the Board of Adjustments, managing partner, and president of a successful business in Oklahoma City, Metro Sign Corp.
- Sholund – I was raised here in Mustang since 1992 and graduated from Mustang High School in 2008, I left shortly thereafter for the United States Navy, and served on an Amphibious Assault Ship and was deployed to the east in 2009-2010. Since I have been out of the military, I have moved back home near family and friends. My father pastors a church here, Life Tabernacle UPC. I have always loved Mustang and felt that this is my home where I have been raised. I believe my age is a liability to me in this campaign, in the fact that I don’t have a lot of background in this. But I have a lot of strengths to be offered as well. If the people of Ward 6 choose to elect me and stand behind me, I will give them and the city of Mustang 100 percent of me.
What do you believe is the most important quality for a city councilman?
- Schweinberg – To be transparent, a problem solver not a problem maker. Have a vision, strong communicator, willing to work the job, and to work closely with the city manager and staff. Being prepared to address all issues brought in front of the council at the time of the meeting, not after the vote has been casted, not after it has been voted on.
- Sholund - The most important quality for a councilman is in my opinion trust. The people who have elected you have put their trust in you to do the right thing, and if it is broken it is hard to regain. I want people to know, that they can trust me, to do what is right and to be truthful all the time.
Is being able to work together with city staff, fellow council members and others an important part of the job?
- Schweinberg – That’s actually the most important part of the job, along with being available to the constituents in not just the Ward, but the entire city.
- Sholund – To be able to work well with others is most definitely an important part of the job. Being able to communicate well with others and to learn both sides of a story is what it is all about, being able to compromise and make a fair call/judgment, that is what the very foundation of America is built on. Everyone having a voice, and learning where two sides can meet, for the benefit of all.
Are there things going on in the city you would like to see changed? If yes, please detail and advise how you would go about seeking those changes.
Both Schweinberg and Sholund expressed confidence in the city and its staff and did not see anything in particular that needed to be changed. Schweinberg went on to say he believed Rooney was an excellent choice for the city, based on several factors.
“I was not involved in the hiring of the city manager, I can say with strong convictions, the recent articles in the News, regarding the emails and letters to the staff and the city manager, I am confident that the hiring of Tim Rooney, was for the best of this city,” Schweinberg said. “He has shown this resident that he is the best man for the job, and has a staff that he can count on.
“A manager that does not stand in defense of his staff is not a manager in my eyes,” he said. “It is time to allow them all to do their jobs.”
Linda Hagan, who has served as Ward 5 councilwoman since 2005, did not draw an opponent. Hagan also served on Council from 1975 to 1979 and from 1996 until 2005.
Hagan said recently she was happy to serve another term for her ward and was excited to be a part of decisions that will impact those residents living there.
“This is a great city and I am lucky to have wonderful constituents in my ward,” Hagan said. “I’m grateful I’ve had this opportunity and look forward to continuing in this role.”
Canadian County Sheriff’s Office is mourning the loss of one of their own, after the unexpected death of Sgt. Gary Garrison.
The 64-year-old department veteran died of an apparent heart attack last weekend while on duty, Undersheriff Chris West said. Garrison worked for the sheriff’s department for 17 years. Before that, he was employed at the Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno. He also served in the United States Army.
“Sgt. Garrison will be dearly missed by his law enforcement friends and family,” West said.
Sheriff Randall Edwards said the loss was especially hard, not only because of Garrison’s long tenure at the department, but also his impact on everyone he worked with and helped in his long career.
“Gary was a good friend, he was one of my training supervisors when I was first hired in 2000 that trained me,” Edwards said Sunday. “He was a good man, family man and law enforcement officer.
“Everyone loved him,” he said.
Funeral services were held Wednesday in El Reno.
By Traci Chapman
It’s a long way from Mustang, Oklahoma, to the Sundance Film Festival, but that’s exactly where Jeff Robison spent last week.
Robison is one of the writers and producers of “Rudderless,” the William Macy-directed film selected to close out the festival, held last week in Park City, Utah. With a top-billed actor selecting his film as his directorial debut, Robison said the movie was another step in a dream job for him and writing partner Casey Twenter. It was a dream that started when both men were very young, Robison said.
“I’ve always loved movies,” he said. “I remember watching the 1933 version of King Kong, when I was about 4 years old.
“I’ll never forget bawling when King Kong falls off the Empire State Building, and I was connected with movies even then, they were something magical,” Robison said.
That was back when Robison was a boy from Mustang, a 1990 Mustang High School graduate who said he knew he wanted to do big things – he just didn’t have it all mapped out at that point.
“I went to Northwestern for one year and graduated from OSU in 1995,” he said. “My major was education, and I knew that was a good way to go.”
Where his education took him was back home, teaching for five years at Mustang Valley Elementary, alongside teachers who had taught him several years before.
“It was a great learning experience – some of the best teaching times I had,” Robison said. “Pam McLaughlin was the best boss I ever had, the teachers were the best I ever worked with, some of the best women I ever knew.”
From Mustang Valley, Robison moved to Putnam City Middle School, then Piedmont Middle School and Piedmont High School, teaching and coaching “pretty much everything but soccer, baseball and swimming.” He also coached his children’s teams, utilizing his own athletic experience as a MHS basketball player.
But while he loved teaching, Robison said movies were always in his blood, something that simmered under the surface until he got married. It was then Robison decided he needed to write a “legitimate” script. He bought software and a screenwriting bible and took his best shot.
“I wrote this script without really knowing what I’m doing,” he said.
While nothing came from that first effort, a chance meeting would spark Robison’s writing career. Enter Casey Twenter, who had his own Canadian County ties.
“We met at a fantasy football draft,” Robison said. “We started talking about movies and developed a friendship from there.
“It was the first time I’d met a friend I could really bounce ideas off without feeling idiotic,” he said.
Twenter lived in Oklahoma City, after getting a cross country scholarship from University of Central Oklahoma. He met his wife, Cristi – a Yukon High School graduate – and got a job at Hallmark. The couple now have a daughter, Kaitlyn, who is 8. Robison’s family was also growing – with wife, Jeni, he had two children of his own, Grace, 7, and Jake, who is now 6, he said.
Their families were the partners’ greatest inspiration and biggest concern as they moved from writing part time to a full-time effort, Robison said. Throughout the difficult decision to give up teaching to pursue his dream, his mom was instrumental in giving him the push he needed, he said. A secretary with Lakehoma Elementary for 25 years, Jill Thomson knew just what to say and do to keep her son believing in himself and his goals, he said.
“My mom has always believed in me – she’s been so supportive, has millions of friends, a lot of Mustang people, and there’s a community of Mustang friends who have been incredibly supportive,” Robison said. “Mom’s kind of been the ring leader for that.”
Even with so much strong encouragement, working toward their goal was nerve-wracking, Robison said. There were several stops and starts, times when the pair thought they had something that would sell and nothing materialized.
“It can be a frustrating business,” he said. “We would get down and I would say, ‘Dude, we’re in Oklahoma City, we’re not going to get anything.’”
The partners didn’t let the low times discourage them completely, however. The two would write and write, generating scripts in almost every genre, from horror to romantic comedies and dramas. Twenter would pound on doors looking for backing and the pair started meeting with known actors, people like Keith Carradine, Laurence Fishburne and Rob Schneider.
“We were ecstatic – these guys were actually meeting with us,” Robison said.
The excitement didn’t last for long after Robison and Twenter discovered they couldn’t raise funds to make their movie. But instead of being the end of their dream, two events would soon prove to be a turning point for the men.
“We were pretty depressed about the situation – I’m still teaching, he’s still in advertising – and I said, ‘Let’s make something else,’” Robison said. “You go to the movie store and it’s lined with horror movies, so we decided to go that route and make our own movie.”
The end result was “The Jogger,” a 2013 thriller written and directed by Robison and Twenter. On the first movie set the pair had ever stepped on, they filmed the production over 15 days, mostly in Edmond, Robison said. The film won Best Narrative at the LA Indie Film Fest, Kansas City Film Festival and the Tulsa United Film Festival, and has garnered positive reviews from critics and viewers alike on online sites. That was a turning point, but there was one other – when a chance call led to the pair’s biggest connection to date – William H. Macy.
“Ironically, Casey calls Creative Artists Agency and magically – it was a fluke – he got the agent of William H. Macy directly on the phone,” Robison said. “We had read Macy wanted to start directing, so we changed our strategy to try to get him to direct, so we sent the agent the script.
“I was at parent teacher conference in Piedmont the next week, and Casey is calling and calling and texting me, telling me to look at my email,” he said. “I told him, ‘I’m going to tell you right now if this is a joke I’m going to drive to Kansas City and we’re going to get into a pretty big fight.
“The next we knew we were sitting in William H. Macy’s house in L.A., eating dinner with him and his wife and daughters – I had two bites of chicken and could barely talk,” Robison said.
After four years of trying to get the movie going, by May the movie was in production and cast and crew were told it would be screened at Sundance. The dream was a reality.
“We can’t yet do this full time, but we now have something tangible we can hold onto and believe in,” he said.
Rudderless is only the beginning, Robison said. The partners have about 20 scripts finished and are constantly working on more. The pair hopes Oklahoma film incentives will allow them to shoot their next film this summer.
“It’s been a fascinating journey,” Robison said. “I understand how blessed I am to be able to live this dream, even for a year or two, of course, we want to do this for the rest of our lives.”