A crowded field of nine candidates came forward to battle it out for the OKC Ward 1 City Council seat in the February general election, and now that group has been whittled down to Bradley Carter and Shay Varnell, who will go before voters in Tuesday’s April 6 runoff.
Both candidates cite roads, MAPS 4 and public safety among their chief concerns if elected.
In February, Carter got 26 percent of the primary vote, while Varnell picked up 19 percent. Three other candidates were in double digits.
Meet the candidates
Carter and his wife operate a coffee business and are active in church ministry. Carter also served in the Army and overcame an opioid addiction he developed after sustaining injuries in a car accident. He is married with seven children, including his niece, whom he and his wife adopted.
Varnell is a co-owner of Linsenmeyer, Bogie and Varnell Insurance Agency. He also serves on the OKC Traffic and Transportation Commission and once worked as a golf professional at Quail Creek. He has also been endorsed by outgoing Ward 1 councilman James Greiner. Varnell is married with two children.
Ward 1 issues
Ward 1 is one of the larger, more populated wards in the city. Spanning some rapidly growing portions of northwest OKC, Ward 1’s boundaries fall in two different counties, Oklahoma and Canadian.
Both candidates believe the ward’s growth needs to be met with similar development of infrastructure. Carter said the need for basic things like sidewalks is serious.
“As a resident of Surrey Hills, I’ve seen first-hand the explosive building growth on the Canadian Country side and the infrastructure needs that must be met,” he said. “And then on the Oklahoma City side, sidewalks to service areas with busy streets so residents can navigate safely are desperately needed.”
Varnell echoed those views when asked what he sees as the ward’s most pressing need.
“Infrastructure,” he said. “A lot of the major roads and even the neighborhood streets are in dire need of resurfacing. Most of the time these type of projects are scheduled many years in advance, and my concern is I don’t see many of the crumbling streets on OKC’s long-term plan.”
When it comes to the rest of the city, Varnell sees the execution of the latest MAPS projects as one of the most important challenges facing the OKC. MAPS 4 passed by a wide margin in 2019 and includes some of the city’s most important long-term projects because of the scope.
If elected, Varnell said that working on MAPS will be one of the things he’s most interested in.
“MAPS 4 is a $1 billion promise the city has made to the citizens of OKC,” he said. “I’m looking for to the next transformation and am excited to get involved with that.”
Carter said making Oklahoma City’s neighborhoods safer is at the top of his to-do list if elected. He said economic development starts at home.
“Without safe neighborhoods, we do not have the ability to grow communities in the real sense of the word,” he said. “It is a priority that we maintain and increase as needed funding for our police and firefighters. Public safety creates the framework for families to be able to be neighbors.”
Role of the council
Varnell said he believes the job of the city council is to continue to push OKC in a positive direction, but he said councilmembers should also be willing to listen when it comes to what constituents want and are concerned about.
“I think one role is to continue the city’s direction that most helps all of the city’s citizens, which is to provide the best core service that the city can provide,” he said. “Running for office is not about the candidate, it’s about the people. Elected officials are representation of the people that elected them. Elected officials must listen and govern at the will of the people.”
Carter said providing good leadership is among the most important responsibilities of any civic leader.
Carter said central Oklahoma’s spate of winter weather helped him better communicate with those who might vote for him.