Tide of change: First six months of 2006 highlighted by turnover in top spots

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a two-part series looking at the top stories of 2006.

By Fawn Porter/Staff Writer

When the final bells ring at the close of 2006, Mustang will surely have a story to tell about a year lived fully — for good or for bad.

It was a year of startling change for the community, in many areas. Look any direction in the 12-square-mile town and you’ll see the framework of hundreds of homes going up, while hearing the consistent thump of hammer on nail — not to mention a number of commercial
developments changing Mustang’s landscape as well.

The first half of the year was a season of change in Mustang’s political arena — ushering in a new mayor, and city leaders agreed to go forward with the city’s first municipal bond election in over 15 years.

On the school district front and along Czech Hall Road, a new elementary school is being built to help ease the area school district’s population, which is busting at the seams.

Here is a look back on other high points of 2006:


It was a volatile start to 2006 in city politics, with a former City Councilwoman calling for an investigation into former Mustang Mayor Chad McDowell, whose actions, she said, forced the resignation of the city’s engineer.

Former City Engineer Joe Painter tendered his resignation Dec. 16, 2005, citing an increased workload and time constraints on other projects, but then-City Councilwoman Wendy Wilkerson said a conversation she had with Painter pointed to a previous talk the engineer had had with McDowell, where it was alluded the former mayor had enough votes to fire him.

McDowell would not confirm the conversation at a January Council meeting.

Wilkerson said she was not involved in the discussion with the mayor regarding Painter and did not know who was, but she said it “vexed” her to be under a “cloud of suspicion.”

This was the second time allegations had swirled around McDowell’s interaction with city officials and their subsequent resignations.

In April 2005, former City Attorney Ted Pool resigned following a talk with McDowell in the attorney’s Oklahoma City office.

By mid-January, it was announced that District Attorney Cathy Stocker would look into McDowell’s alleged actions.

“The investigation is necessary because no one is above the law,” Wilkerson said.

“Stocker had written a very strongly worded letter to the city of Mustang, cautioning the elected officials to bear in mind the implications and consequences of violating the law,” the Councilwoman said.

Last year, Mustang City Council members were cleared of allegations the body had violated the state Open Meetings Act when some Council members signed a letter of support for the Mustang Planning Commission that did not appear on the agenda. Allegations also included violations of the law involving e-mail correspondence.

In April, the state Bureau of Investigation declined to investigate McDowell.

In other news, Wilkerson announced she wouldn’t run again for her Ward 1 seat.

By the end of the month, two candidates announced their bid for election to Wilkerson’s post — Planning Commission Chairman Jay Adams and area businessman Henry Varenhorst.

Councilman Scott Gibson sought re-election for his Ward 3 seat and ran unopposed.

January was a crucial month for Mustang High School football when Todd Dilbeck, athletic director and head football coach, announced he accepted a position at Rice University as offensive line coach.

From there, the search began to fill Dilbeck’s vacated position and his legacy of high standards.

Day-to-day operations of the athletic department fell to Assistant Athletic Director Mike Clark while the search was on-going.


Mustang school officials broke ground at the site of a new elementary school expected to open in August 2007.

The 75,000-square-foot elementary school is expected to cost $9.1 million and was approved by voters in a bond election in October 2005. The school is expected to open with 550 students and will help Mustang School District cope with student population growth and a looming mandate requiring full-day kindergarten by the 2011-2012 school year.

The current school plan adds 25 new elementary school classrooms and six special education rooms to the district, not including the gymnasium, media center and office space.

Two opponents filed for the mayor’s seat against incumbent McDowell, who also filed. Jeff Landrith and Harry Weatherford were both seeking to sit at the head of Council table.

In the end, Landrith upset McDowell and swept the mayoral primary with over 55 percent of the vote.
Landrith began his bid for the mayor’s position to seek a “positive change” in that post and by becoming a fixture at City Council meetings.

Mike Clark, assistant athletic director, is named MSD athletic director.


Mustang School Board chose Ty Prestidge to be the next head football coach. Prestidge, who was a MHS assistant football coach and offensive coordinator, was selection after a marathon 5 1/2 hour executive session. Springer said the district received 18 applicants and the selection committee narrowed the field to nine candidates and then to three frontrunners who were interviewed during the meeting.

Prestidge was also selected to take the MSD assistant athletic director position and is responsible for coordinating sports and activities at Mustang High School.

Mustang baseball leaders say they’d like to see that baseball gets what it deserves, getting back what it puts into the parks and recreation till.

Optimist Club’s Ray Meier said he would like to see the money baseball raises go back to baseball needs, as well as for the City Council to stop “waiting around and do something” about constructing new baseball fields in Mustang.

Meier said he wondered why the Council failed to act on, or even revisit, a proposal made that called for the building of new baseball fields near Wild Horse Park — a plan the Mustang Leisure Board had a hand in.
But, in addition, he said he wanted to see the revenue earned through baseball be funneled back into the sport’s needs, not in a parks and recreation general fund.

Mustang’s baseball fields are about 28 years old, he said, and lie trapped between a sewer treatment plant and an industrial plant, adding no capital money has been spent on the fields in the last about 10 years.

Mike McGarry received Teacher of the Year honors during the Mustang School District Teacher of the Year banquet.

McGarry received the plaque from the 2005 winner Pam Greenwell who described him as “very creative, dedicated, and willing to go the extra mile to ensure students’ success.” In a video tribute, one of his students said McGarry could “take a little chunk of wood and turn it into art, and make it beautiful.”

McGarry has said his goals for his students extend beyond learning to use power and woodworking tools safely, but for them to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in their work.

Mustang High School girls basketball won the 6A state title with a score of 48-37 against Edmond Sante Fe High School in Tulsa.

“It’s always been known that free throws win championships,” Lauren Reel said in March. “We stepped up there and hit our free throws. It was the big reason we were able to come back like we did, because people were going to the line and hitting free throws.”


Adams wins a narrow victory over opponent his Varenhorst to become Ward 1 Councilman. The final count was 82 to 73.

The Council unanimously voted to raise the city’s debt payment for Vision 2000 projects, which include the police station, Town Center, softball complex and aquatics center, while locking in a lower interest rate of about 4.15 percent and retiring the city’s remaining debt and penny sales tax about eight years early. The city’s current interest rate is 5.75 percent.

This move will save taxpayers about $7 million overall, city professionals said.

The original debt of $17.7 million was set to retire in 2030, but with the refinancing will terminate in 2021.
uMustang Public Library’s “Friends” are the best in Oklahoma, winning statewide recognition for a third year.

The Friends of the Mustang Library took home the “FOLIO Best Friends” award for libraries in cities with populations greater than 10,000, excluding Tulsa and Oklahoma City systems. The group won the award last year and in 2003. The Mustang Friends formed four years ago as the Mustang Public Library moved into Town Center and increased its circulation and programs.

The third Best Friends award comes in a landmark year for Mustang’s Friends. In January, Friends members reached a long-range goal to create a $20,000 endowment for Mustang Public Library programs a year early.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation declined a request for a probe into alleged violations of the state’s Open Meeting Act by McDowell, the district attorney said.

Wilkerson had called for the investigation in January stemming from an alleged phone conversation between McDowell and Painter, leading to the engineer’s resignation.

The OSBI responded to Stocker’s request by saying the allegations did not warrant a state investigation, and the alleged comments could not provide probable cause in the bureau’s estimation.

Less than 48 hours after taking the silver medal in the two-mile run at the famed Texas Relays, Mustang High School junior Kevin Schwab won the 5K road race at the 2006 Redbud Classic.

It was Schwab’s second Redbud title in the past three seasons, winning the 10K race as a freshman. Schwab posted a time of 15.59, beating his closest competition by over a minute.

A bond issue could loom in the year ahead as Mustang school officials cope with student population growth and a full-day kindergarten mandate.

Mustang School District Superintendent Karl Springer said he doesn’t know yet the amount or the projects it will fund.

MSD officials expect to grow by about 250 students in the fall, with about 160 additional students at the elementary level.

A $16.6 million five-year capital improvements plan is presented to City Council members for years 2007-2011 with proposed financing methods and timeline for projects including wastewater treatment plans upgrades and expansions, water tower rehabilitation and painting; rehabilitations to lift stations; heating and air unit at fire department; restrooms at Wild Horse Park and fire department roof and siding repairs.

Transportation officials have plans for a $20 million solution to traffic headaches at Interstate 40 and Morgan Road interchange.

A single-point urban interchange, which would consist of a traffic control light on top of a bridge over I-40 and a road widening project are cornerstones in an Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s preliminary plan, which is set for construction in spring 2008.

Susan Davis, an engineer with Triad Design Group, said once construction begins it will take two years to finish the project, but officials plan to keep traffic moving on both the freeway and Morgan Road.

The sandy terraces along a shallow river cutting through Canadian County could be the source of precious drinking water for thousands of county residents who live in the three cities abutting Oklahoma City, including Mustang.

Mustang alone, according to predictions, will grow to about 17,000 people by 2025 if it only grows at a rate of 1 percent and require 3 million gallons of water on an average day; 4.51 million gallons on a peak day.
uCity of Mustang filed a lawsuit in Canadian County District Court against a police officer and the Fraternal Order of Police, seeking to block arbitration over a performance evaluation that led to the officer being denied a merit pay raise.


About 150 Mustang-area residents could be out of work if the Bridgestone-Firestone Tire Plant shuts its doors later this year, and city officials say it is too early to tell what the impact of closure will have on the community.

Bridgestone officials gave the United Steel Workers Local Union 998 a notice of potential closure in April. Officials said if the plant is closed, its last work days will be in December.

The plant closure would mean 1,639 people will lose their jobs. Terminations began in October.

“Moving on out” from the city is a trend that continues in the two fastest-growing counties in the state: Canadian County, abutting metro Oklahoma City, and Rogers County, next to Tulsa.

Census estimates recently released by the state Department of Commerce shows Canadian County is No. 2 in growth in the state, gaining 3,100 residents in a year’s time, or a 3.26-percent growth spurt. Since 2000, the county has experienced a 12.55-percent growth change.

A civil lawsuit is filed in federal district court by Attorney General Drew Edmondson alleging a Mustang resident and former state representative violated federal law regarding unsolicited calls and may be liable for up to $10 million.

The lawsuit against Tim Pope, who has worked as a political consultant, state the former lawmaker violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by placing about 20,000 calls to Oklahoma County residents in January in opposition of Oklahoma County Commissioner Jim Roth, said Charlie Price, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office.

Parks and Recreation Director Steve Hewitt called it a “bittersweet” decision to give his resignation to the city of Mustang. Hewitt took over as city manager in Greensburg, Kan., a town of about 1,800 people.


Mustang City Council adopted a $13.6 million fiscal year 2006-2007 budget, which is about an 11-percent increase over the previous budget.

A proposed city sewer impact fee that could have raised the cost of new construction by several thousand dollars had some local developers seeing red.

The Mustang City Council during budget work sessions, voted to approve an infrastructure impact fee that would assess a $1 per square foot fee on all new residential construction. A commercial impact fee was also passed that would base its fee on the size of a business’s water meter.

The fee would be used to offset debt service payments for upgrades and expansion to the city’s near-capacity wastewater treatment plant, which costs about $5 million, as well as be used for other sewer and water-related needs.

Sparks fly over fireworks in 2006


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