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City of Norman sees 15 candidates in mayoral, city council races with campaign focuses on policing, infrastructure

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Norman City Hall

The Norman City Hall meeting on July 6.

Following the closure of candidate registration on the 5 p.m Dec. 8 deadline, 15 candidates are officially in the running for a seat in Norman’s city government.

Mayor of the City of Norman

Norman’s mayoral incumbent Breea Clark officially placed her bid for reelection, having announced her intention to run in April. 

“Norman’s best days are ahead,” Clark said in her announcement video. “It’s time to keep moving forward stronger (and) better together as we move beyond COVID-19 towards a brighter future for our city.”

Much of Clark’s term has been focused on COVID-19 precautions, including the enactment of  a stay-at-home order and mask mandate early in the pandemic and the later passage of a $500,000, four-stage vaccine incentive program that included at-home vaccinations and vaccination pods.

During her time as mayor, the Norman City Council saw a contentious 2020 budget discussion where council voted to reduce the NPD’s proposed budget increase by $865,000. In December 2020, Carter County Associate District Judge Thomas K. Baldwin found the NPD budget vote to be invalid due to a “willful violation” of the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act, a decision upheld by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in April 2021. 

Clark’s tenure also saw change in public transit and the creation of community outreach programs, such as the Special Needs Alerts & Identification program (S.A.ID) and an outreach team under the Norman Police Department. Clark has also supported the protection of 2SLGBTQ+ community rights, supporting the ban of conversion therapy by city council in June 2021.  

Nicole Kish, a local optometrist and co-founder of Unite Norman, identifies her platform as being fiscally conservative, pro-police and in support of limited government. Kish emphasizes “refunding” the police, following the city council’s vote in June 2020 to not defund the Norman Police Department, but to reduce its proposed budget increase by $865,000. 

Unite Norman officially endorsed Kish Dec 9. 

“Instead of defunding police like the current administration, we must defend and refund the police. We are living in a time where crime seems worse than ever and mental health issues are rampant,” Kish wrote on her campaign website

In January 2021, Kish traveled with her partner Ward 5 Councilmember Rarchar Tortorello to the “#StopTheSteal” rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., according to a Facebook post. Neither individual said they were involved in the riot or storming of the Capitol that took place following the rally. 

Owner of Midway Deli and former Ward 1 Councilmember “Midway” Bob Thompsonis running with the slogan “Mayor for Everyone” and says he plans to prioritize local issues over national debate.

“We do not elect a mayor to turn our city red or blue,” Thompson wrote on his campaign website. “We elect a mayor to give ourselves a dependable voice in establishing policy and direction that reflects the ideals of our community.”

His policies focus on reducing stormwater impact, homelessness reform and minimizing “partisan polarization” by instituting a “Plain Talk” requirement for all city communications that requires a plain language city council agenda summary be made available to all Norman residents.

Veteran and former city of Norman Safety Manager Larry Heikkila wrote on his campaign website that he is not a politician but feels the city council's focus must be changed to “get Norman back on track.” Heikkila’s campaign focuses on police support and preventing government overreach.

“City government is not a master, it is a servant to its citizens,” Heikkila wrote in his candidacy announcement. “I want to protect our freedoms and end the government overreach into faith, family and business.”

Alice Stephensen-Leuck identifies herself as the “good deeds candidate” and said in an interview with the Norman Transcript that she will not ask for donations and will decline donations past $1,000. One focus of Leuck’s campaign includes making the Riverwind Casino pay for a homeless shelter, as she told The Transcript she believes the casino attracts homeless individuals. 

Leuck also wants to focus on supporting the police and Norman’s “essential needs,” including infrastructure, animal control, emergency services and maintenance efforts. 

Ward 2 Councilmember

Lauren Schueler is the current interim council member for Ward 2 and was appointed to the position in May following her time on the Tax Increment Financing District #2 Oversight Committee. According to her campaign website, Schueler believes that all politics are local and that’s why she “chose to serve where she can be closest to the people.”

During her time on council, she worked on “strategic and long-term” solutions for stormwater, affordable housing and water. According to her website, Schueler also works on issues that directly impact Ward 2, such as the redevelopment of Lindsey Street. 

John D. Argo, owner of Argo Metalworks, is running for the Ward 2 council seat after running in the February 2021 election. Argo told the Daily that the “divisiveness of Norman politics” was one of many reasons that compelled him to run. 

“I think we need to take a step back, and this is what I think I bring to the council, just someone that says ‘Leave your politics at the door, and let's work on Norman and its problems and its people.’” Argo told The Daily in February.

Argo’s priorities then included helping businesses through COVID-19, listening to policing concerns and making Norman friendly for builders. 

Ward 4 Councilmember

A member of the Resonator’s board, former member of the Inclusive Community Subcommittee and Community Development Block Grant Committee Helen Grantannounced her candidacy with an official launch party Saturday night. 

Grant has been involved at the city level concerning a community fridge ordinance which previously led to the removal of a fridge on Lindsey Street and the relocation of a second fridge before council voted to modify the city code. The new code excludes community fridges from limitations that forbid “unattended or discarded” refrigerators and files them under a new permit and application process. 

“My art practice and past journalism and activism (have) brought me into contact with many types of folks and introduced me to ways of organizing that are non-hierarchical,” Grant wrote on her campaign website. “(I) seek to meet people where they are at, practice transformative justice, and prioritize rest and sustainable working habits.” 

Public accountant and veteran Doane Harrison plans to “listen to the concerns and ideas of Ward 4 citizens,” according to his campaign website. Harrison has lived in Norman for more than 40 years and held a position on the Norman Regional Hospital Foundation Finance Committee. 

Harrison is running a campaign based on fiscal matters, promoting economic growth, funding for public safety services and infrastructure reform. He promises “compassionate help” for Norman citizens and wrote on his website that he understands the value of being connected.

Gale Hobson has been the chair of the Senior Center Ad Hoc Committee for the past four years. She also volunteers time to mental health initiatives like the Norman Mental Health committee. 

“I ask for your support as I run for Ward 4 City Council, so that I can work to provide progressive, financially responsible, steady leadership as we move into the exciting future of Ward 4 and Norman,” Hobson wrote on her campaign website.

Hobson believes the city can support the homeless, those struggling with mental and physical health and the 2SLGBTQ+ community while also supporting the NPD. She also believes the city needs to find new ways to handle its water issues. 

Teresa Borum announced her candidacy in an interview with the Norman Transcript. Her platform focuses on homelessness and police funding. In the Transcript interview, Borum said her interest in policing stemmed from the $865,000 reduction of the department's proposed budget increase. 

Believing that homelessness extends past Ward 4, Borum told The Transcript she wants to put services that help the homeless population in an area away from businesses, schools and “densely packed” neighborhoods.

Borum told The Transcript she hopes Ward 4 citizens do not see her through a partisan lens, as she feels partisan politics have no place in local politics. 

On October 22, current Ward 4 Councilmember Lee Hall announced she would not seek reelection, writing in a statement posted to her Facebook page that she intends to invest her time on issues she is passionate about, such as historic preservation, infrastructure and homelessness. 

“For over two years now, it has been my privilege to represent the residents of Ward 4 on the City Council,” Hall wrote in the statement. “For some time, I have been reflecting on how best to continue to contribute to Ward 4 and my community. After careful consideration, I have decided that I will not be seeking re-election to a second term.” 

Ward 6 Councilmember

Elizabeth Foreman is the Ward 6 incumbent and is seeking reelection with a campaign centered on “what everyone in Norman needs.” Her campaign website states that she has been “forthcoming and honest” with her constituents about issues facing council. 

Foreman wrote on her website that she has kept partisan politics from city government and stands completely behind her voting record. 

“I believe the residents of Norman need to have a voice in their local government by participating in direct democracy,” Foreman wrote. “This campaign is about doing what is right for ALL of the people of Norman.” 

Construction business owner Alex Torviis running on a campaign based in “common sense government” that asks Ward 6 citizens to “vote for conservatism,” according to his campaign website. As a council member, Torvi says he plans to support the NPD and all public safety departments and will invest in city infrastructure.

Torvi wrote on his website that he feels elected officials should be “accessible and accountable” and wrote that he will support local schools, hospitals and businesses during his time on council. 

“As the events over the last 16 months in our city have shown, we must have leaders with backbones — people with the courage to stand up to the loudest voices in our community,” his campaign website read. 

Torvi has participated in events with Unite Norman where he delivered campaign updates, though he has not been officially endorsed by the group. 

Ward 8 Councilmember

Architect and current Ward 8 Councilmember Matt Peacock is seeking reelection. He formerly served as a city planning commissioner and worked with the Norman Arts Council. 

Peacock’s campaign is built on growth, sustainability and economic experiences, according to his campaign website. He wrote he will continue to work on Norman’s environment and historic areas. He also promised to protect natural resources and use his knowledge of sales tax to benefit “all of Norman and future generations.” 

According to his website, Scott Dixonplans to be a “cheerleader” for Norman if elected, saying that he wants to have the city manager run the city while the council focuses on generating revenue and building roads and on public safety. He identifies himself as pro business and development. 

To combat homelessness, Dixon wants to create a partnership with Griffin Hospital to develop a discharge program that presents transitional plans for recently released patients, saying on his website that he doesn’t believe in punishing the homeless but doesn’t support “promoting it.” Norman Forward projects would also be a focus of his, as well as storm water and building an arena in University North Park. On Dec. 2, Tortorello welcomed Dixon to Unite Norman on the group’s media outreach page. 

Candidate elections will be held Feb. 8, 2022.

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