Edmond Mayor Darrell Davis and challenger Brian Shellem answered questions on their respective platforms, traffic issues and diversity, equality and inclusion programs during a mayoral forum this afternoon by the Edmond AMBUCS Club at the University of Central Oklahoma.
Davis, who was first elected mayor in 2021, kicked off opening statements by naming the three “fundamental pillars” of Edmond: community, safety, and schools.
“Those three pillars are the foundation of what, to me, is still Edmond,” Davis said. “If we don’t strengthen those pillars, it will start to crumble.”
Davis spoke about various initiatives he has spearheaded on the Edmond City Council, such as the expansion of the city’s water infrastructure and the East Edmond 2050 plan.
“They’re looking at how can we have density over there in the right areas, working out how to have commercial (development) in the right areas and preserve as many of the trees over there that we all want and love,” he said.
Shellem, the president of Advanced Automotive Equipment, opened his remarks by stating that Edmond needs “another vision.”
“The people who have been here 50, 60, 70 years, they know what makes Edmond special, and we’re at a crossroads,” Shellem said. “The question becomes, do we want to keep Edmond, Edmond? And I say yes, we need to keep Edmond, Edmond.”
The Edmond mayoral race will be on the April 4 municipal election ballot, along with two open City Council races in Ward 1 and Ward 2 as well as an Edmond school board race.
Davis: ‘You’ve misquoted me a couple times today’
On the topic of “fixing” traffic on Edmond’s main thoroughfares, one of Edmond residents’ biggest gripes, Davis said the Oklahoma Department of Transportation is resurfacing Route 66 and Route 77 — East 2nd Street and South Broadway — “in the coming months.”
The project, which ODOT awarded at a bid of just under $8.6 million in November, is slated to resurface U.S. Route 77 starting from 0.62 miles north of Memorial Road up to East 2nd Street, then east on East 2nd Street to North Sooner Road.
“And maybe in the future, seven or eight years from now, we will take over that road,” Davis said, referring to East 2nd Street or Route 66.
Shellem said he does not want to wait on transportation infrastructure projects but insinuated that Davis’ comment on transferring portions of Route 66 and Route 77 to city arterial roads was about waiting for road construction.
“I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wait seven or eight years,” Shellem said.
Shellem said he would put performance and penalty clauses on transportation infrastructure projects.
“You put performance clauses saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to give you a bonus if you finish early. If you don’t, there is going to be a penalty as well.’ So we’re taking some money off the bill,” Shellem said. “As I talk to people in regards to my budget, my business, they say, ‘That’s fine for you and your business, but that’s not how city government works.’ My question is, ‘Well should it?'”
Asked toward the end of the forum about each other’s “greatest disappointment” with their opponent’s platform, Davis said because Shellem loves Edmond, the two agree “on a lot of things.”
“He says he loves Edmond, I love Edmond, so we agree on a lot of things. It’s just our interpretation on it,” Davis said. “I guess my only disappointment is that you’ve misquoted me a couple times today, but this is not a debate. This is just a call for you all to hear what we’re talking about.”
Shellem: ‘DEI needs to D-I-E’
An Edmond AMBUCS member asked how each candidate will handle pressure from “groups who are proponents of mandatory DEI programs that are discriminatory by nature.”
Davis, Edmond’s first Black mayor, said it is not a problem the city faces.
“I can understand there might be some groups out there that might be proponents of mandatory DEI training, but that’s not an issue with the city. The city does have a DEI training, they have a group, but it’s all voluntary,” Davis said. “If there is a group out there that wants to make it mandatory, well, I can tell you, that’s not a city issue.”
Shellem said the city should get rid of its DEI training.
“I would say this is where our mayor and I differ. Under his tutelage as mayor, they created an office of DEI here in Edmond, and I think we should do away with it,” Shellem said. “DEI, all it is, is another name for CRT or critical race theory for adults.”
Shellem said the best way to “solve the issue of diversity, equity and inclusion” is to “open God’s word up and follow the teachings of Christ.”
“So, I would take these resources that we’re trying to put tax dollars toward and say they need to go away,” Shellem said. “So, I would say DEI needs to D-I-E.”
After the forum, Davis said Shellem was “accusatory” in his answers.
“This was supposed to be a forum for where we were to give our point of views and not be accusatory, in my mind,” Davis said.
In response to Shellem’s comments on ridding the city of its DEI program, Davis said Shellem’s remarks were akin to national political rhetoric.
“The fact is that the committee was not started by me. That was the employees of the City of Edmond that said they wanted that,” Davis said. “To me, that was national level stuff in there.”
Asked why he wants to get rid of the city’s DEI program, Shellem said it “creates division.”
“It tries to tell you you’re a bad person because of your ethnicity or race. I’m not supportive of that at all. I believe in equal rights, equal opportunity, and equal protection,” Shellem said. “If we really want to implement a proper training, that’s really taking the teachings of Christ. So if we want to open up God’s word, that’s how we solve a lot of these problems.”