City Council candidates’ greatest challenge is never their opponents. It’s voter apathy.
People just don’t pay attention to the races, and they don’t turn out on Election Day.
But that might not be a problem in this year’s District 9 election, set for Aug. 25. Councilor Ben Kimbro, who represented the district for four years, is not seeking reelection, and two first-time candidates for elected office are vying to succeed him.
Maybe a race between a wealth manager and a mental health therapist will pique people’s interest.
Lee Ann Crosby, 36, has spent most of her adult life advocating for others. She was driving down the street one day when she saw a girl without shoes, so she gave the girl hers.
“I was, like, I am going to start a clothing closet,” Crosby said.
And so was born Just a Push Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission it is to empower people in at-risk communities by creating pathways of hope.
Empowerment takes different forms for different people. Crosby said she once helped someone get a poem to producer and actor Tyler Perry.
“I have called Tyler Perry. I have helped individuals find their parents because they were adopted. I’ve helped advocate in court. I am an independent monitor for DHS (Department of Human Services) clients,” Crosby said.
“I do that on my own time. I don’t get paid. I just enjoy helping people.”
Now she wants to serve in a different capacity.
“I just really thought, ‘You know what? I’ve advocated, and I just feel like I should go for it and see if I can be in a better position to help Tulsans,’ ” Crosby said.
Similarly, Jayme Fowler, 60, says he’s running for City Council to give back to the community that has been so good to him. His parents, both public school teachers, taught him to treat every person the same.
“My parents really worked hard at setting an example of being balanced, fair, of being pragmatic and being able to look at both sides of the issues,” he said.
“(My) parents engaged with people in the community. Whoever or whatever your walk in life was, they were all treated with dignity and courtesy and respect.”
After graduating from Memorial High School, Fowler played a year of football at the University of Arkansas on his way to earning a degree in finance. Then he was off to a career in wealth management with stops in Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; Birmingham, Alabama; and Dallas before returning to Tulsa full time three years ago.
He now has his own business, Oak Creek Private Wealth Management.
Fowler’s work has taken him to 36 states and made him a student of financial markets across the globe, including Latin America and China.
“Especially in China, there is what we call crony capitalism, where there is a heavy hand in the government where they allocate resources and such, and I just really don’t think that is the role. … It really distorts businesses as far as the ebb and flow of businesses,” Fowler said.
“I think the role of city government is to create a great environment for entrepreneurs and new businesses to evolve and to grow and to prosper.”
Crosby and Fowler have generally similar views on two hot-button issues that have occupied a lot of City Council time in the past year: the mask mandate and civilian oversight of the Police Department.
Both said they understood the concerns of those opposed to the mask mandate but ultimately believe councilors did the right thing in approving it.
“I think they did it to protect us and to protect our businesses, because if now we would have to have another shut down, that would be horrible,” Crosby said.
Fowler described the mask mandate as fair and balanced.
“They put a lot of thought into it,” he said. “And if I thought that this was going to be permanent legislation, I may have stepped back and taken a longer look at what was being proposed, … (but) for this pandemic, I just really think it calls for special measures.”
The city should be looking to establish its own form of a civilian engagement program with police, Fowler said, as opposed to borrowing from another city such as Denver, which has an Office of the Independent Monitor. He described the Denver OIM model as “heavy handed.”
“Just from my casual conversations with different people in the police community, they really think that is an overreach,” Fowler said. “I really think that we really need to come up with not a Denver model, but I think we need to have engagement with everyone involved, specifically the police.”
Crosby said she’s also heard concerns from police about civilian oversight but said it’s necessary and would benefit both residents and officers.
“We need oversight to protect everyone,” she said. “Because if you are not doing anything wrong, then you don’t have anything to worry about.”