Tuesday, May 10, 2016

City Manager Reflects on First Year on the Job


The Sallisaw City Commissioners approved the renewal of City Manager Clayton Lucas’ contract at their meeting Monday.

The contract runs through June 30, 2017. Lucas was hired in May 2015 to replace retiring City Manager Bill Baker.

It’s been a good year, Lucas said this week, about his first year on the job.

“It’s been really good. I feel like we’ve accomplished a lot and been able to go in the direction we were directed to go by the commission,” Lucas said Tuesday.

Lucas said the good year has resulted in more and improved services for the city while lowering costs.

Lucas said  he is now in a job he hopes to keep until he retires.

But Lucas, who turned 38 on Monday, almost didn’t apply for the job.

Lucas spent much of his youth in Sequoyah County, and attended Central Schools. As he grew up and his family moved, he attended numerous high schools and finally graduated from Okay High School.

He then went on to California to work in construction, a job he wasn’t fond of, and spent two years in Venezuela as a missionary, where he learned Spanish. He came back to the United States, went to college, met wife Lora in college, and began working in city governments.

He was in Fresno, Calif., with Lora and four and a half children, when a friend from Central School told him that Bill Baker was retiring. Lucas said he debated, considered the job from every angle, and decided to apply. But when called for an interview, he had second thoughts. Lora, who gave birth to the couple’s fifth child, Heather, on Nov. 29, 2015, is from California. The couple’s oldest child, Clayton III, was 14 and getting ready to enter high school. The couple also has Jonah, now 13, Willie, now 8, and Henry, now 3.

Lucas was concerned about moving his family, but the job with the Fresno Housing Authority was “intense.” Although he had taken two weeks off to help with the arrival of Heather in November, Lucas said he was called back to his job on eight of the 10 days he had off.

He decided to interview for the Sallisaw job, then reconsidered again because it meant moving his oldest son away from his friends and classmates.

Surprisingly, it was Clayton III who changed Lucas’ mind again. Lucas said he was explaining the dilemma to his son on the way to school one morning, when the younger Clayton said he thought it would be a good move. When Lora agreed with that assessment, Lucas interviewed for the job, and now the whole family is happily settled in Sallisaw.

“We feel like this is home,” Lucas said, “like this is where we are supposed to be. We really are enjoying it. In many ways, it’s like we never left.”

Now there is more time for family, he said.

“It’s been fantastic. It’s not nearly as demanding, and we have more family time. I feel like I’m contributing to my community, but not at the risk of my family. It’s the balance we were looking for.”

The community is also thriving.

Lucas said, “We are providing even more services while lowering costs. We have eliminated a number of positions, through attrition, in almost every department and added two new departments, tree trimming and construction, that are saving the city money.”

He said the construction crew will save approximately $1.5 million at the city landfill. The crew is finished with the construction of a $1 million leachate lagoon, and they will build a $500,000 new cell at the landfill. This saves having to bid the jobs out to more expensive construction companies providing great savings for the city.

The crew’s next project will be at the waste water treatment plant on U.S. Highway 59 south for state-mandated upgrades.

In the past year the city has also expanded DiamondNet internet services to surrounding communities for a minimal cost and investment while providing additional revenue for the city. Wireless internet services are now available in Marble City, Wild Horse Mountain, Brent, Rocky Point, Vian, Gans, and other areas. The expansion is bringing in about $200,000 in net profit a year and is expected to grow rapidly with several new installations being completed each day.

Lucas said next year the city will have the ability to bid on school contracts for internet services through a Federal bidding process. This could provide an additional revenue stream.

The city’s new animal care facility “is a big win for us,” Lucas said. The $60,000 project is nearly done, and at a savings of more than $90,000  from what was originally planned. 

The city also continues to work on facilities to provide more sports and recreational areas for citizens. The city's new Sports Complex is completed and operating, having already hosted several tournaments. The new disc golf course is also finished and has been host to a tournament. Another exciting project in the works is a splash pad. The city has taken several steps to receive a grant that will help fund this addition for area kids. 

Another positive is that sales tax revenue is up. In February the city collected a record $492,000 in revenue, and sales tax revenues for the following months are expected to be higher than projected.

“Things are looking good overall,” Lucas said.

The city commissioners will be reviewing the city’s general fund budget and the Sallisaw Municipal Authority’s budget on May 17 and 18 at their annual budget retreat.

Lucas said, hopefully, the next year will include upgrades at Brushy Lake Park, including 50-amp camping spots, and upgrades to the city’s playground equipment. 

“We are moving forward,” Lucas said. “Our goal as an organization is to continue to move forward and provide the best service at the lowest cost to our residents.”

That’s not bad for one year on the job.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

For more news stories stay tuned to The MIX 105.1 or visit www.kxmx.com

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