Wednesday, February 14, 2018

New Sallisaw Officials Thank Voters, Plan for Future

Sallisaw’s newly-elected officials will take the oath of office in April, and their first official meeting will be on May 14.

They are Philip Gay, Ward 2, Shannon Vann, Ward 4, and Mayor Ernie Martens. All three won their races in Tuesday’s election.

Gay said the first thing he must do is “Learn!” 

He said he will be reviewing the city’s charter, rules and regulations, and the budget.

“I think there’s a way to save money for the city,” without raising taxes or utility fees, Gay said.

The new Ward 2 city commissioner thanked those who voted for him, and said he looks forward to working with the other city commissioners. Gay is retired from Whirlpool in Fort Smith, but his family has lived in Sallisaw for generations.

He believes Sallisaw has a bright future, and he hopes to work with the Cherokee Nation to get Blue Ribbon Downs open again.

“We have so many opportunities here,” Gay said. “I intend to have an open-door policy because I want to hear from the people and hear peoples’ ideas.”

Shannon Vann has served the city before, as mayor for 12 years.

Vann thanked the voters for returning him to office, and his opponent, Jonathan Richardson, for a well-run race.

“Thanks to Jonathan for putting himself out there, willing to work for the city,” Vann said.

Vann said his first concerns will be the city’s budget. The board of commissioners will begin their special meetings on the city budget in May. The commissioners will also be in the hiring process for a new city manager.

“Those are our two big priorities,” Vann said. “There are a number of projects that are in progress, and we need to make sure we stay on track.”

About the new city board of commissioners, Vann said, “It should be a good group.”

Ernie Martens, the city’s new mayor, agrees. Not only is the new board a “good group,” Martens said, “I think it’s going to be a very productive group.”

Martens said he will ask the new commissioners to create lists of what each believes needs to be done, then the group will work together to prioritize that list.

“I’ve been listening to the people and have a list of what they want,” Martens said. “Of course the first thing to be done is bring everyone together, and then hire a new city manager.”

Martens thanked all those who supported him.

“I’m excited and appreciative for all the support from everyone,” Martens said. “It is exciting and humbling too.

“I’m also glad we don’t have to have a runoff,” he concluded.

With three persons in the race for mayor, it was possible that one candidate would not get enough votes to win conclusively. But that did not happen, and Martens won with 51 percent of the vote.

The new commissioners and mayor will go to work at the regular May meeting on May 14 unless there is a special meeting called in April.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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