Midwest City Council
Oklahoma's municipal and school board primary election date is set for Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. (Angela Anne Jones)

Oklahoma City Public Schools, Deer Creek Public Schools and Western Heights Public Schools will have school board races early next year, while a slate of school board incumbents across Oklahoma County will be reelected by default, as no other candidates filed to run against them.

Additionally, 12 candidates have filed candidacy for four different seats on the Midwest City Council.

Candidacy filing ended at 5 p.m. today. Oklahoma’s 2024 election cycle for municipal and school board candidates who filed this week will feature a Tuesday, Feb. 13, primary for seats featuring more than two candidates. The general election is scheduled for Tuesday, April 2.

In school board races, Oklahoma state law dictates that contests featuring only two candidates head directly to the April general election.

Candidates file for open seats in OKCPS, DCPS

Two people filed to run for OKCPS’ District 3, and three people filed to run for District 4, respectively, representing central-western Oklahoma City and southwestern Oklahoma City.

Cary Pirrong, 58, filed to represent the District 3 seat again after he was appointed to it in July 2022. An OKCPS graduate and parent, Pirrong is the administrative director of the Oklahoma Board of Bar Examiners, according to his LinkedIn page. He previously served as the director of equity and compliance for Oklahoma City Community College.

Pirrong does not appear to have much information about his campaign online. When he was appointed in July 2022, Pirrong told Nuria Martinez-Keel, then with The Oklahoman, that he wanted to help change OKCPS’ “negative perception.”

“OKCPS has been on the rise for the last 10, 15 years and I want to see that continue,” Pirrong said. “I think the greatest challenge still facing OKCPS is the perception from the community that, in my opinion, is not a correct perception and it hasn’t been correct for 10 or 15 years.”

Jessica Cifuentes, 25, also filed to run for the seat this week. Although she does not seem to have much of an online presence, Cifuentes appears on the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association website as an ASTEC Charter High School graduate. According to her Facebook page, Cifuentes is a graduate of Emory College. On her LinkedIn profile, she calls herself an engineer.

OKCPS’ District 4 seat is open because incumbent Mark Mann decided to run instead for state Senate’s District 46. Three candidates filed to take his place on the school board.

Jay Albertson, 53, is the president of the local 6016 chapter of the Communications Workers of America union. According to his bio on the chapter website, Albertson has worked for SBC Wireless and Cingular phone and internet companies. According to Tim Willert, then with The Oklahoman, Albertson applied to fill the seat for an unexpired term in 2017 but lost the position to Mann.

Scotty Hernandez, 29, is a realtor and photographer. He owns Hernandez Home Group, which is brokered by eXp Realty, and Scatterscape, a real estate photography company. Hernandez is also president of the Oklahoma City chapter of the National Association for Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, according to his Facebook page.

Dana Meister, 69, is a longtime educator and current general manager at Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City, according to her campaign website. Meister says on her website that she has worked in the Altus, Choctaw and Midwest City school districts.

“With all the attacks on education and educators from state leadership, we must put someone on the school board with the experience and knowledge to guide Oklahoma’s largest school district. I’m an educator. Education is what I do,” Meister said in a statement on her website.

Two candidates filed to run for the Western Heights Public Schools District 4 seat.

Incumbent Teresa Lewis, 70, filed to run for the seat she was appointed to earlier this year after three controversial board members abruptly resigned. She is a retired Western Heights teacher.

Notable votes from Lewis include her vote with the rest of the board June 12 to hire Shane Murnan as principal of John Glenn Elementary School. Murnan drew national attention in August when news broke that he performs as the drag queen Shantel Mandalay during his off time.

Lewis has one challenger, LaCosta Herrion, 45. While Herrion does not seem to have information about her candidacy online, she was involved in advocating against the district’s controversial former board members and superintendent. Herrion was one of 10 people in the district who signed a demand letter in May 2022 calling a contract with former superintendent Mannix Barnes “fraudulent.”

Two candidates filed for the Ward 4 seat on the Deer Creek Public Schools Board: James Gibbs, 45, and Paul Elder, 43.

Gibbs is a former Deer Creek Public Schools teacher who currently serves as a college and career advisor at Epic Charter Schools, while Paul Elder serves as the Deer Creek Public Schools Foundation’s treasurer.

In Edmond, Cynthia Benson, 54, will be reelected by default to her Edmond Public Schools District 4 seat as no one filed to run against her.

Candidates flock to Midwest City Council seats

In Midwest City, Ward 2 Councilman Pat Byrne will be reelected by default, but the Ward 3, Ward 4 and Ward 6 seats are up for grabs.

Six candidates filed to run for the unexpired Ward 3 seat on the Midwest City Council, which was held by Rick Dawkins. Dawkins was appointed to the Ward 3 seat in July, when former Councilwoman Megan Bain resigned.

Espaniola Bowen, 64, Janice Swartz, 70, Raymond Melton, 64, Rita Maxwell, 76, A.J. Bailey, 39, and Jeff Moore, 61, filed for the Ward 3 seat.

Bowen served as Midwest City’s Ward 3 Councilwoman from April 2018 to April 2022. According to her LinkedIn, she currently serves as the director of health resources development service for the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Maxwell serves as the president of the Oklahoma Democratic Party Veterans Federation.

Bailey previously ran for the Ward 3 seat on the Midwest City Council in 2022 but did not advance past the February primary election. He currently serves as the tree board representative on Midwest City’s Parkland Review Commission.

Swartz, Melton and Moore do not appear to maintain online presences.

Nicholas Timme, 29, Marc Thompson, 71, and Charles Wallace, 41, filed candidacy for the Ward 4 seat. Incumbent Sean Reed did not file for reelection.

According to his LinkedIn, Timme has spent 10 years at Tinker Federal Credit Union, where he currently works as a loan analyst. He is the chairman of Midwest City’s traffic and safety commission.

Wallace challenged Midwest City Mayor Matthew Dukes for his seat in 2022 but did not advance past the February primary election. Wallace is a martial arts instructor and served two tours in Iraq with the Marines, according to his instructor biography.

Thompson does not appear to maintain an online presence.

In Ward 6, incumbent Rick Favors, 61, will face challenger William Bridges, 84.

Favors is a mortgage loan officer at AMC Mortgage. Bridges does not appear to maintain an online presence.

In the Midwest City – Del City School District, Board Seat No. 4 incumbent Julian Biggers, 83, will face Shelly Schultz, 45, in an April 2 election.

Biggers was elected by default in 2019. According to her LinkedIn, Schultz works in regional business development at Smart Start, Inc.

Incumbents in Yukon, Mustang, El Reno, Putnam City, reelected by default

Several incumbents across the OKC metro area will not have to win elections to keep their seats, as no challengers filed against them.

Brian Coulson, 41 will be reelected to Board Post No. 4 on the Yukon Public Schools Board, as no one filed to run against him.

In Mustang, one candidate filed for Board Seat No. 4: Sarah Lippencott, 41. Lippencott is a realtor and a former teacher at MPS. Chad Schroeder, incumbent and vice president of the board, did not file for reelection.

El Reno Public Schools Seat No. 4 incumbent Bradley Baker will be reelected by default, as no other candidate filed to run against him.

Charity Avery, Putnam City Public Schools Board president, was reelected by default, as no one filed to run against her.