With an eye toward the future, Lauren Durmus had been kicking around the idea of running for city council for a while, only it wasn’t a decision she expected to make anytime soon.
“I was thinking it was maybe a few years down the road,” Durmus said.
Turns out, the future is now. Durmus filed to run against OKC Ward 8 incumbent Mark Stonecipher in the Feb. 12 election. The campaign marks her first political race, which she said was not an easy decision. In the end, it came down to the idea of giving voters another option.
“The impetus was knowing that we needed an alternative,” she said.
The 35-year-old said she does not believe Stonecipher has been accessible to the OKC Ward 8 constituents.
“I didn’t see a lot of evidence that he is recognizing all of our community,” she said. “He’s also been running unopposed.”
Northwest Oklahoma City isn’t as hip as Midtown, Deep Deuce or the Paseo, but it features gobs of people, retail and businesses. Paycom’ headquarters, Quail Springs Mall and part of the Putnam City and Deer Creek school districts also fall within its boundaries. While downtown may get most of the attention, there’s a lot going on 15 miles to the north.
“It’s an important part of the city,” Durmus said. “There is a lot of retail. A lot of big box stores, but there are also a lot of locally owned businesses.”
Durmus’ endorsements include the Central Oklahoma Labor Federation and Sally’s List, an organization that recruits progressive women to run for office in Oklahoma.
Elected in 2015, Stonecipher is running for his second term. He also serves as Oklahoma City’s vice mayor. As a city councilman, Stonecipher said he has prioritized fixing the ward’s roads, improving parks and developing a MAPS 3 health and wellness center for seniors.
Stonecipher’s endorsements include Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt and the Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police, among others. He said he is running for another term to help ensure the city continues its forward momentum.
“I believe in our neighborhoods, and I believe it is vital we continue our Oklahoma City renaissance,” Stonecipher said. “I want to make certain we fulfill the promises of fixing our roads and improving public safety.”
Stonecipher said he has a record of getting things done.
“I have worked closely with Mayor Holt on some of the most important issues facing the city, including the recent hiring of our new city manager,” Stonecipher said. “I gained approval for the construction of the 131-acre Lone Oak Park which will be located west of Hefner Parkway, as well as council approval for a $5 million renovation to the North OKC Soccer fields at Cameron Park.”
VOICE will host a city council candidate forum 4 p.m. Sunday at First Unitarian Church of Oklahoma City, 600 N.W. 13th St.
Lauren Durmus, 35
Occupation: Director of leadership and engagement at Teach for America.
Experience: A native of Okarche, Durmus has worked extensively in the education field including time in the classroom as a teacher and working for non-profits focused on education.
Platform: Durmus would like to see Oklahoma City’s communities better connected through parks, expanded indoor spaces and events. She’s also for improved public transportation and sidewalks throughout the city.
“I think the senior wellness centers have been great, but I’d like to see spaces for a broader range of demographics,” she said. “I think our public transportation should also better connect our communities.”
Favorite thing about OKC: Durmus sees a will to improve the city by its citizens which she believes in crucial to making it a better place to live.
“People are committed to the cause of making the city a better place and you see that when people show up and take action, as we saw in the teacher walkout last year. We saw change happen. The other thing is I think our leaders are accessible. I recently spoke to Mayor Holt for 30 minutes on the phone. There aren’t a lot of cities this size where you can do that.”
Why should people vote for you: “I have experience working with diverse communities to make change and I’ve been doing that my entire professional career. I have experience leading projects and managing budgets. I think I have what it takes to help the city move forward.”
Mark Stonecipher, 61
Experience: Stonecipher is the incumbent councilman for OKC Ward 8 and currently serves as vice mayor of Oklahoma City.
Platform: Stonecipher said he wants to improve streets, increase funding public safety and complete projects for which citizens voted.
“We must continue to fulfill the promises we have made to voters,” he said. “This means finishing MAPS 3 on budget and with high quality projects. Looking at the usage of the senior center in my ward proves we are well on our way to delivering on these projects.”
Favorite thing about Oklahoma City: As a city councilman, Stonecipher has observed and participated in city government at work. He values the approach from those involved.
“I really like that, when it comes to our city, we set partisanship and ideology aside and just act like good neighbors act toward one another. We come together and find ways to accomplish great things.”
Why should someone vote for you?: “Our city’s leadership is undergoing a tremendous amount of change, so we need the experience I can bring. Our city really does a lot. Whether it is dealing with streets, public safety, the airport, water, trash service, permitting, economic development, animal welfare, parks or a myriad of other issues, we need a city councilor with the experience to help drive these issues.”