OKC Ward 5
Clockwise from top left: Audra Beasley, Matt Hinkle Thuan Nguyen and Jeff Owen are the 2023 candidates for the open Ward 5 seat on the OKC City Council. (NonDoc)

When longtime Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell decided not to seek reelection after three terms in office, the open southside seat on the OKC City Council drew four candidates aiming to replace him.

The four include an advocate for those with physical limitations, an immigrant from Vietnam, a nurse practitioner and a longtime member of the OKC Planning Commission.

A heavily residential area, OKC Ward 5 covers a significant portion of the city’s southwest side. It borders Moore to the east and Newcastle on its southwest. It includes Westmoore High School and Earlywine Park.

Voters in Oklahoma City wards 2, 5, 6 and 8 will head to the polls Tuesday for the city’s primary election. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent support, a general election between the top two finishers will be held April 4.

NonDoc hosted a debate among the four candidates seeking OKC Ward 5, and a video of the debate can be viewed above.

Prior to the debate, however, the Ward 5 candidates also answered a handful of questions by email. Their responses appear below in an alphabetical summary of the candidates.

Audra Beasley

Candidate Audra Beasley speaks during a Ward 5 OKC City Council debate Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, at Oklahoma City Community College. (Michael Duncan)

Beasley told NonDoc she decided to run in part because of issues she has dealt with caring for a son with developmental disabilities. Beasley regularly evaluates public buildings for issues like accessibility and advocates for installation of adult-size changing tables in restrooms.

“My current and most rewarding project is working with the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum and its marathon,” she said. “The work led me to run for City Council. We must build an inclusive city. I’ll be a much-needed voice for disability rights, and equal access and participation for all.”

When it comes to Ward 5, Beasley said the ward needs to be modernized.

“There’s old infrastructure in place in communities on the north end of the ward that’s in need of revitalization,” she said. “The overcrowding and underfunding of our public school system has forced many to enroll their children elsewhere losing community connection for the sake of opportunity. We’ve seen businesses shut their doors to relocate elsewhere. We must work to retain and strengthen economic and community development in south OKC.”

Beasley opposes using exclusively public funds for a proposed new arena for the Thunder, a position she made clear in the recent debate hosted by NonDoc. Beasley suggested further renovation of the current facility.

“I do not believe it’s the sole responsibility of Oklahoma City residents, as the Oklahoma City Thunder is owned by those who can fund and support their own business ventures and opportunities,” she said.

Beasley said other priorities for the rest of the city include: creating economic development, reducing homelessness and expanding public transit.

“We need to prioritize removing the barriers that keep our residents from a safe and healthy life, boost economic development and provide real solutions for our unhoused population with sustainable resources,” she said.

Beasley has spent about $1,900 on her campaign so far, according to campaign a Jan. 31 report.

Online: Facebook | Website

Matt Hinkle

Candidate Matt Hinkle listens during a Ward 5 OKC City Council debate Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, at Oklahoma City Community College. (Michael Duncan)

Hinkle has been a longtime employee of Tyler Media and serves on the OKC Planning Commission. He has also been a volunteer with the South OKC Chamber.

In answering NonDoc’s questionnaire, Hinkle said he is running for office because he loves south OKC.

“This community greeted me in 1980, took me under its wing, and raised me to become the person I am today. I have been actively involved in our community and feel the best way to continue to give back and help improve the lives of my fellow residents is by using my knowledge and experience to serve on the city council. I understand our community, its needs, and the residents,” Hinkle said. “‘Service over self’ is an ideology that all great civic leaders follow and it is my intent to live by this when I am elected to represent Ward 5 — all of Ward 5.”

Hinkle said Ward 5 “has long been overlooked” for infrastructure and amenities.

“Our retail corridors and public roads are rarely maintained with adequate city maintenance and the lack of parks and public amenities is pale in comparison. These basic services affect not only public safety, but do not help encourage new businesses that would result in the creation of new jobs,” he said. “In addition, with half of Ward 5 being in Cleveland County, it is important there is strong communication and partnership between both city and county, working in harmony. I have these relationships.

“Ward 5 has a very diverse population representing almost every income level and housing options ranging from subsidized housing to large, grand homes in one of the highest per capita zip codes in the state.”

Asked in the questionnaire how the proposed new Thunder arena should be financed, Hinkle called it a “difficult” question to answer, and he did not specify his position on whether private funds from team owners should be required.

However, during the Ward 5 debate, Hinkle said the new arena proposal should feature a mix of funding sources.

“It’s an unfair question, because you don’t know what the deal looks like (and) who pays for what,” Hinkle said. “It can’t be all public money. It can’t be all private money. Maybe it’s some county money and state money and a little bit of everybody’s money. But as far as I’m concerned, the Thunder needs to stay as long as it’s feasible.”

When asked during the debate what the biggest issue facing OKC is, Hinkle said homelessness.

“They want a humane way that they’re ‘not in my neighborhood anymore.’ (…) There was a MAPS 4 meeting today where they had a great presentation on how some of that MAPS money is being accumulated to spend on some of the homeless issues,” he said during the Feb. 2 debate. “But in all reality, everybody I talk to [says] their major concern is what are we going to do with the homeless. And I mean, we can talk about roads and we can talk about infrastructure and economic development, but that’s really in the forefront of everybody’s mind.”

According to his campaign reports, Hinkle has raised close to $90,000 and has spent about $24,500 so far.

Online: Facebook | Website

Thuan Nguyen

Candidate Thuan Nguyen speaks during a Ward 5 OKC City Council debate Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, at Oklahoma City Community College. (Michael Duncan)

Nguyen emigrated to the United States as a child from Vietnam with his mother. Today, he owns an insurance business and serves on citizens committees for MAPS 4 and EMBARK, as well as the Urban Design Commission. Nguyen said it was through working with those organizations that inspired him to run for the OKC City Council.

In answering NonDoc’s questionnaire, Nguyen said more sidewalks and improved public transit are among Ward 5’s biggest needs.

“We need to connect our ward,” he said. “This includes building more sidewalks, adding more public transportation routes and fixing the roads. Along with connecting Ward 5, we must also protect our police and fire and address the homeless crisis in Oklahoma City.”

Nguyen said the city as a whole must prepare for more growth.

“As a growing city, many issues remain at the forefront of our priority list,” he said. “The council must prepare for the population growth that is taking place. We must respect and protect our police officers and firefighters. Addressing the homeless crisis must also be at the forefront of our government and private sector’s task list. Ensuring the entire city is fairly invested in must also be a priority.”

When it comes to the Thunder, Nguyen said he opposes a new arena being funded with public money, even though he admits to being a fan of the team.

“At this time, I do not support building a new stadium when my ward in south OKC is in dire need of connectivity and infrastructure improvements,” he said. “I look forward to continuing to cheer my favorite team on, and I look forward to working with them closely to improve our city.”

During his run for office, Nguyen has raised more than $54,000 and has spent about $43,000 for his campaign.

Online: Facebook | Website

Jeff Owen

Candidate Jeff Owen speaks during a Ward 5 OKC City Council debate Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, at Oklahoma City Community College. (Michael Duncan)

Owen is a nurse practitioner who decided to run because he fears OKC is starting to resemble West Coast cities.

“Our city government is turning away from our Oklahoma traditions of hard work, self-reliance and belief in our family values, our community and our faith,” he wrote in response to NonDoc’s questionnaire. “With leadership and vision, we can take hold of our past and embrace our future as a top-10 city.”

Owen said Ward 5 residents need to feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods. To that end, he supports increased efforts at hiring more police and paying them better.

“I fully support our police, fire and emergency personnel,” he said. “I support financial resources to retain outstanding police officers and to recruit quality cadets. I will support efforts for continued training and excellent equipment for their safety and the safety of the community.”

Owen said residential streets need a lot of attention, particularly in his ward. He said business districts in the ward also need a makeover with fresh ideas and thinking.

He called homelessness a blight on the city, and also something that directly affects his ward.

“Homelessness negatively impacts every resident in OKC,” he said. “It hurts businesses and families wanting to enjoy OKC. It is a symptom of other complex, underlying circumstances that need to be addressed in order to solve the homeless problem in OKC. These individuals need help and OKC can collaborate with private-sector organizations and area agencies to address the ongoing issues and prevent them from reoccurring.”

Owen said he supports the idea of a new arena for the Thunder but is skeptical on the use of public funds to exclusively pay for the project. Owen said the city has other needs that are more in the forefront, or at least should be.

“The idea of constructing a new arena for the future is exciting,” he said. “However, OKC has other pressing issues that need immediate attention. If OKC plans to build a new arena to keep the Thunder in OKC, other projects will have to be placed on hold. I am not sure whether or not the voters of OKC want another arena or repaired residential streets and upgraded parks.”

Although Owen filed his campaign committee registration, he has not filed an expenditure report.

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