As they approach the general election for the Oklahoma County Commission District 3 seat, long-time county employee Myles Davidson and former mayor of The Village Cathy Cummings disagree on the priorities for the troubled jail and have different ideas for improving county services.
Davidson believes jail administration should introduce more diversionary programs to prevent people from being housed at the jail entirely, while Cummings believes the management structure at the facility — including the jail trust — needs a complete overhaul.
Oklahoma County District 3 covers far northwest Oklahoma City, Edmond, Arcadia and Luther. Whoever voters elect will replace current District 3 Commissioner Kevin Calvey, who is vacating the seat to pursue the county’s district attorney position.
Davidson, who has worked as Calvey’s chief deputy since January 2019, previously worked in District 2 Commissioner Brian Maughan’s office from March 2009 until 2019, totaling 14 years of experience with the county’s Board of Commissioners.
Cummings spent five years serving on The Village City Council, starting in 2017. She stepped down in December 2021 in order to continue her county commissioner campaign after The Village was redistricted out of District 3 and into District 1.
Cummings also owns and operates Vito’s Ristorante, an Italian restaurant in Oklahoma City. Her husband, Sean Cummings, currently serves as The Village’s City Council representative in Ward 4 and operates an adjoining restaurant, Sean Cummings’ Irish Pub.
Davidson said his experience in county government makes him the better candidate for the seat.
“You’re not going to come to me and ask me to make you an Italian dinner, you’re going to go to her, and you’re probably not going to go to her and ask her to build roads and bridges, and manage county government,” Davidson said. “Just as being a chef takes experience, so does this job.”
Cummings pointed to her own experience in local government and business, saying she could provide “a new set of eyes” and “new ideas” to the BOCC. She said that during Davidson’s time with the county, “nothing has improved.”
“He works for the guy that runs the worst jail in America,” Cummings said. “And 14 years ago, it was not the worst jail in America.”
Oklahoma’s general election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8, and polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Early voting runs from Wednesday, Nov. 2, through Saturday, Nov. 5. More details are available from the Oklahoma State Election Board.
County Commission candidates talk infrastructure needs in east Edmond
Both Davidson and Cummings called the county’s need for repairing road infrastructure the top concern among Oklahoma County residents.
Cummings wants the county to partner with municipalities to “expedite getting those roads fixed and split the costs.”
In Edmond, Cummings wants to collaborate with the state broadband office to expand broadband infrastructure out to largely undeveloped areas in east Edmond. In May, the Legislature passed a bill creating the office, with the intent of delivering high-speed internet to 95 percent of Oklahomans by 2028.
“Individual residents and citizens can’t afford to put in their own broadband out there. It’s just too expensive,” Cummings said.
Davidson also mentioned the need for broadband expansion in the area, but he emphasized the area’s general infrastructure needs.
“As the population moves easterly, the infrastructure doesn’t exist currently,” Davidson said. “Working with the City of Edmond to build the infrastructure for tomorrow, and not the infrastructure that we need today, is going to be one of the big things that I push.”
Cummings, Davidson disagree on County Jail
Both candidates mentioned county residents’ vote during the June 28 primary election to use $260 million in bonds to build a new county jail.
Davidson called the vote “monumental.”
“With the trust and the current leadership, (…) the voters thought it was time to make that investment and fix the error that was constructed in the early ’90s,” Davidson said.
Asked if he is satisfied with CEO Greg Williams‘ management over the jail, Davidson said operations need to improve.
“We can and we must do better,” Davidson said. “The individuals that are inside that facility deserve better. There are limitations due to that facility.”
Davidson said the county needs to incorporate additional diversionary programs to prevent people from being housed at the jail, and he said those housed there are likely to face crisis owing to the conditions and social dogma surrounding the jail.
“You can be of sound mind and body. But if you’re going inside the jail, you’re going to start facing a mental health crisis,” Davidson said.
A decade ago, Davidson helped Maughan start the SHINE program, which allows judges to sentence nonviolent offenders to hours of community service, rather than sending them to jail.
“We’re keeping them in their job, we’re keeping them paying taxes,” Davidson said. “We’re keeping family units whole, we’re actually getting them to buy into their local communities. It’s just a win-win for everything.”
Cummings, who said she voted “no” on the June bond proposal to fund a new jail, said she heard many county residents’ concerns about the jail before the primary. After the vote, she said, the topic has “left their mind.”
Cummings said she wants operation of the jail to be returned to the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, which ran the facility until the jail trust took over in July 2020. Additionally, she said the jail needs a new management structure to make administrative and financial decisions.
“My big thing is that there is no one at that jail with real law enforcement training to be able to deescalate a riot or deescalate a brutal attack,” Cummings said.
She said she wants the sheriff’s office to regain control over the jail one floor at a time to sweep the floor of contraband and prevent fights — an idea she credits to a conversation she had with Wayland Cubit, who unsuccessfully ran for Oklahoma County Sheriff in 2020.
Asked what should be done with the current jail once the new one is complete, Cummings said it should be torn down, while Davidson has proposed converting the current jail tower into a data center space to lease to large tech companies.
‘I don’t think a debate benefits my campaign’
Neither Davidson nor Cummings would commit to a public debate proposed by NonDoc multiple times over the past two months. Asked why they did not want to stand in front of voters and answer questions during a debate, both candidates said they felt individual engagement with residents is more productive.
“I think one-on-one with the voters is more what they want to see, versus two people up there complaining about each other and talking about how they are different from each other,” Davidson said.
Cummings echoed Davidson’s point, but she also called debates a “ready to rumble kind of thing.”
“To be completely honest, I don’t think a debate benefits my campaign,” Cummings said. “I am out on the door speaking to voters in my district every single day. I don’t want to sit there for an hour or 90 minutes and see who can throw the lowest blow or the biggest jab.”
However, if Cummings were to commit to a debate, Davidson said he would, too.
“Should she say that she wants to do it, let’s get it on,” Davidson said.