POSTED ON AUGUST 24, 2011:
A voter information series
This election season, 36 candidates are vying for nine seats on city council. Candidates will duke it out in the primaries on Sept. 13, when the districts with only Republican or Democratic candidates will be decided.
Those who win the primaries will face off on Election Day, Nov. 8.
So what's in each district? What are their unique strengths and weaknesses? Who'll be battling it out in the primaries, and what do they stand for? We intend to tell you as we dig into a district or two each week in our continuing series, Council Connection. Up this week are Districts 5 and 6.
Districts 5 and 6
The Lay of the Land
District 5 is a puzzle piece that fits into the eastern-middle of Tulsa. The area arcs along Highway 244 for a mile on its northernmost point, then plunges a few miles down Garnett and jumps back across Highway 169 at 41st St. The western edge stair steps north through residential areas between 51st St. and Admiral Pl., and east to west between Yale Ave. and Memorial Dr.
District 5 is one of four smaller, primarily residential, Tulsa City Council districts (along with 4, 7 and 9) tucked into the center of the city.
Inside the district, we have the Fontana Shopping Center and Hale High School, and tight-knit neighborhoods like Lortondale (previously in District 4).
District 6, on the other hand, is the largest of the bunch. From its jumping-off point at Garnett Rd. (between 11th St. and 41st St.), the district encompasses the outer reaches of east Tulsa and fits in between the boundaries of Catoosa and Broken Arrow.
The area has tightly-packed neighborhoods closer to the center of town, and then becomes much more rural as you head west.
In District 5, incumbent Councilor Chris Trail, 41, a Republican who is finishing up his first term in office, will face off against two other Republicans, Sam Roop, 60, and Karen Gilbert, 42, for a two-year term.
District 6 candidates include incumbent Councilor Jim Mautino, 79, who will face off against fellow Republican Byron "Skip" Steele, 62, in the primaries. The winner will fight for a three-year term against Democrat Robert Gwin Jr., 38.
The Contenders: District 5
Chris Trail is running for his second term as councilor for District 5. Trail operates Ike's Chili, a fourth-generation family business that's celebrating its 103rd birthday on Sept. 12. Ike's is the oldest restaurant in Oklahoma, Trail said.
He said he thinks his status as council newcomer will bode well with voters. "Despite the arguing and stuff, I've been really responsive to getting some nuisance and blight taken out of our neighborhoods," Trail told UTW.
He said "there are a lot of great qualities" about the district, but in particular he appreciates its strong neighborhood associations. "It's so crucial to have a good clean neighborhood, and I've got a lot" of those in the district, he said.
Some of his constituents' biggest concerns are safety and police, which are issues, he said, that could be helped by getting a neighborhood inspector.
During his term, he said he's worked with Tulsa Police to rid the district of three massage parlors.
He said he's trying to change the ordinance, which would "make it difficult for them to operate in neighborhoods or across the street from a high school," he said.
Trail is married to wife Sarah, and they have three children, Will, Hayden and Ella. He attended Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.
"Politics is local," Trail said, "It's all about taking care of your neighborhoods and restoring pride in them. Then you can reach for the pride in all of Tulsa."
Republican Karen Gilbert is new to politics and also fresh to District 5. She decided to run for the council seat out of "frustration, and a little craziness," she laughed.
She said she hasn't seen much progress in Tulsa in the past several years, and wants to be a part of some positive change in the area. "When the younger generations graduate from college, they're moving out of the city," Gilbert said. "We're not keeping them, they don't have jobs. I want my kids to stay here in Tulsa, to be able to stay here and raise their families."
Gilbert is married to Tulsa World photographer Tom Gilbert, and they have three teenaged children.
The Tulsa native and involved mom will be honored this month by HeartLine, an Oklahoma City non-profit organization, for her work on an anti-bullying task force.
Gilbert's daughter, Karsten, was bullied by classmates and since then, both mother and daughter have spoken out against cyber-bullying. As part of the task force, Gilbert put together town hall forums where Tulsa Public Schools officials, local police and community agencies, like Family & Children's Services, could come together to find a solution.
Ultimately, the task force resulted in a new school policy against bullying. Since then, she and other leaders crafted language for a state bill against cyber-bullying, but it was vetoed in May.
"If someone is bullying, they're not breaking any law," Gilbert said.
Gilbert has also helped out with other school initiatives, such as Project Schoolhouse and raising awareness of the $300 million bond package that was passed last year.
Since 2000, Gilbert has worked for Tulsa Public Schools, first as a site supervisor and then as an administrative assistant. She has been president of the Tulsa Council of PTAs for the past three years, and has been involved with her children's PTAs since her oldest son, now 19, was in kindergarten.
"I'm a huge advocate," she said, "and I want to be given the opportunity to serve as an advocate for the city, and not just the school district."
Check out her site at KarenGilbertfordist5.com.
Republican Sam Roop is a former District 5 city councilor. "I never thought I would get back into it," Roop said of his decision to jump back into local politics. He was a councilor for nine years, from 1997 to 2006.
But he thought his experience and knowledge could help what he thinks will be a "whole new crop of councilors" after this election. "I've been a bystander for five years," he said. Roop watched as the economy drooped and as councilors and mayor took aim at one another.
"I've got a duty to go back and offer this [experience] to the city," he said.
Roop has been married to his high school sweetheart, Gail Roop, for 41 years. They have three grown children and six grandchildren.
While his children were young, Roop was PTA president at their schools and served as scoutmaster in his son's Boy Scout troop. He and his wife waited until their children were finished with college before they went, too.
As a non-traditional student, Roop said he "thirsted for learning" the way he might not have at a younger age. He graduated from St. Gregory's University with a bachelor's degree in 2006 and a master's in management in 2008. He attended classes while he worked full-time in the telecommunications industry.
Throughout his career, Roop has worked for several Fortune 500 companies like AT&T, WorldCom and MCI. For the past three years, Roop was a technical project manager at Spirit Bank, a position he left in June. He's currently offering telecommunications consulting.
He said he thinks his experience in a changing industry has helped him become a better learner. "In telecom, things change every six months, you can wear out brain cells keeping up, let's put it that way," he laughed.
His career has been marked by what he calls "continuous improvement," Roop said. For 17 years, he was a quality assurance manager for WorldCom. "I've spent my life improving systems, programs ... even myself."
After Roop left the council in 2006, he took a brief one-year position at City Hall as Tulsa's Chief Administrative Officer. Roop's campaign website is Samroop.com.
The Contenders: District 6
Incumbent Councilor Jim Mautino and his wife Bonnie have lived in his east Tulsa house for 47 years. He retired from American Airlines after 39 years.
Mautino was raised in Illinois, and served as an electrical mechanic in the Air Force during the Korean War, according to the city council website.
He's been married for 50 years, and the couple has five children and nine grandchildren.
He is a member of the American Legion, NRA and Tulsa Area Republican Assembly. Mautino is also the chairman for the Tower Heights Neighborhood Association.
Democrat Robert Gwin Jr. is trying again. He's run for the City Council and for mayor without luck so far. But as he puts it, "I've always heard, 'You can't do this, you can't do that,' but then I do it."
He was told in elementary school that he wouldn't be able to graduate, but he finished high school. He was told his SAT score was too bad to get into college, but he did that, too.
Gwin earned his associate's degree in accounting from Tulsa Community College and a bachelor's degree in business administration from Northeastern State University, Tahlequah.
He was told his allergies would make it impossible for him to do outdoor activities, so he became an Eagle Scout.
And now he's trying once again for city council. And this time, he's making it to the general election because no other Democrats filed.
He works nights as a sales manager for Kum and Go. Gwin thinks his 20 years of experience in customer service will help him as a city councilor.
"I believe in open and honest government," Gwin said. If elected, he wants to hold a monthly town hall meeting with District 5 constituents to discuss their concerns and also to keep them up on what's happening at City Hall.
Gwin supports adding more police officers to the force, and growing our mass transit system. "It's good but it could be better," he said. He'd like to see buses running 24 hours a day with more direct routes, plus the addition of an environmentally-friendly light rail system.
He is a member of the Tulsa chapter of Moveon.org.
"Skip" Steele is another political newcomer. He earned a bachelor's degree from John F. Kennedy University. He owns a computer repair business, All Hours Computer Service.
Steele's website, steeleforcommissioner.vpweb.com, was out of commission.
Now, Districts 5 and 6 are better known! We've got three districts left to explore before the primaries on Sept. 13. Check back each week to get up close and personal with each of Tulsa's districts and the council candidates.
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