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You may have noticed this story already from the AP feed or MSNBC or some other news organization but I think it bears repeating.

Muskogee, Oklahoma, has a new mayor.  Aside from Merle Haggard fans, this probably holds little meaning.  But don’t click to a new blog just yet, it gets a lot more interesting.  You see, he’s 19.  Yup, not even old enough to legally drink and he’s mayor of an entire city.  Given, it’s not exactly New York (Muskogee’s population is roughly 40,000), but I very much doubt I could have taken a fraction of that responsibility at his age.  (If you’re honest, I doubt you could have, either.)  I thought I was doing pretty well to get passing grades in my classes, keep a part-time job, and pay my car insurance on time.  To win, he beat out Hershel McBride, 70, a former three-term mayor.  Was it a squeaker, you ask?  Did he win by re-count and dimpled chads?  Hardly.  In a landslide victory, John Tyler Hammons, a freshmen at the University of Oklahoma, garnered 70% of the votes and is set to be sworn in next week.

So did he run on a lark?  A dare?  As a result of a booze-fueled frat party?  Sorry to disappoint, but no.  He’s serious.  And he’s non-partisan.  Democrat, Republican, Greener, Independent, Whig, or whatever, he plans to work for Muskogee as a whole.  “Politics stop at the door,” Hammons said.  “First and foremost, Muskogee is my one and only interest right now.  …If someone wants to talk politics, I will literally leave the office and leave the building if I have to.  In this office, it needs to be Muskogee-oriented.”  To begin, he has at least two ambitious projects to pursue for the city:  1) the introduction of an independent ethics commission to track city officials, both those elected and those directly appointed, and 2) the campaign finance reporting requirements for those running for office.  “I’m sure the [city] council will work with me on these issues,” Hammons shared.  “I campaigned on this, and this is something I intend to push.”

It’s clear this driven young man has big plans.  And Muskogee is betting he’s worth the risk.  Unencumbered by political secrets, schisms, and scandals, Hammons can bring a fresh perspective to the office and hopefully affect greater change than his predecessors.  At the very least, it provides a hopeful turn of events for the millions of voters across the country who remain unsatisfied by their elected officials at every level of government.  Change can happen.  

And not just the change from (D) to (R) in front of a congressman’s name, which is almost meaningless today anyway.  I think the mere act of shaking up an arena is worth as much as any outcome, if not more, whether the results are good or bad.  A former professional wrestler was elected governor.  A former body-builder and actor was elected governor.  A former actor was elected governor … and then elected president.  Oh yes, change can happen, though it may come in many a strange form.  I almost wish I lived in Muskogee so I could have penciled in a ballot for John Tyler Hammons myself.  At least he wants to work for the voters, he wants to make improvements, and wants to try.  That in itself is a victory.  “I’ve always had it in the back of my mind to be governor of Oklahoma one day,” he also said.  “That’s always been a dream of mine.  If I am lucky enough to be governor, I’ll probably flirt with the idea of trying to become president.”

Tell you what, John.  Try your hardest.  Stay honest (I’m assuming, of course, that you are now).  Fight for everything you want to see happen and don’t budge an inch on the important stuff.  Keep your ambition, your idealism, your drive, and I’ll be first in line to vote for you in 2024.  I’ll even make a campaign contribution.  I’m not holding my breath … but I’ll be rooting for you.

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A little Muskogee trivia, for those interested…   Located in the eastern portion of Oklahoma, Muskogee is about 45 miles from Tulsa and 120 miles from Okie City.  It is 61% white, 53% female, and 54% of the population is under 40 years old.  Median income is less than the state average at $26,418 and overall crime is slightly above average.  (A bunch of poor, angry, white women to blame, perhaps?)    The city encompasses roughly 35 square miles and is partially bordered on the northern and eastern sides by the Arkansas River.  It was settled in 1872, was once capital of the Indian Territory (pre-statehood for Oklahoma), and continues to grow today.

 

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