City Hall

Tulsans will go to the polls June 28 for the city’s nonpartisan mayoral primary.

Every Sunday between now and election day, incumbent Mayor Dewey Bartlett and his main challenger, City Councilor G.T. Bynum, will answer one question a week submitted by Tulsans.

We’re calling it “So You Want to be Mayor?”

If you would like to submit a question, email it to The Frontier at

Today’s question was submitted by Jeff Dunn. Dunn is president and CEO of Mill Creek Lumber & Supply. He is also chairman of the board of directors of the Tulsa Regional Chamber.

Jeff Dunn

Jeff Dunn

Dunn submitted his question on his own, not on behalf of the Tulsa Regional Chamber.

Question: “As the mayor, you will have opportunities to partner with the business community in terms of economic development. What specific programs would you focus upon and what specific goals would you establish in your term to ensure continued economic prosperity for the entire Tulsa region?”

Mayor Bartlett’s Response:

“First, I would like to thank Jeff Dunn for asking this question, and I agree with him that Tulsa is prospering economically.

Our policy to facilitate economic growth has always been to keep taxes low and to actively recruit businesses in order to bring and retain major employers in the city as well as the greater metropolitan area. We have created an environment that is extremely friendly to businesses and it shows with major employers like Macy’s, Verizon, and Midstates Petroleum all recently announcing their move to Tulsa.

The relationships that I have worked to build with business communities in Tulsa, the nation, and across the world took time and effort. When I go to another city to recruit jobs for Tulsa, I can say with confidence that the cost of doing business in Tulsa will be at least 20 percent lower than anywhere else. This is the case because of my administration’s common sense fiscal policy. I’ve gone to places like Houston, Dallas, New York, France, and even Japan and have successfully recruited businesses on Tulsa’s behalf.

I utilize our Sister City program and Tulsa Global Alliance to foster international relationships that continue to create opportunity for Tulsa businesses. Just recently, I signed a memorandum of understanding with the city of Sacheon, South Korea, calling for collaboration and cooperation in the aerospace industry. Businesses in Tulsa and Sacheon are excited to build economic alliances together as a result of this achievement.

Mayor Dewey Bartlett

Mayor Dewey Bartlett

We now have many programs that are in place that continue to grow Tulsa’s work force and economy. I bring the city’s partnership to multiple work force training programs like Transportation Connections Work Advance and Tulsa Jobs Corps that help to ensure that Tulsa has a work force ready for in-demand jobs. I created a position at City Hall to streamline and facilitate building projects in Development Services and we use the position to meet the needs of businesses that are setting up shop right here in Tulsa.

The city of Tulsa is also a partner with the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s own program known as Tulsa’s Future. Together we have yielded tremendous results in bringing high-paying jobs to Tulsa. The program brings leaders in business, government and the greater community together for the purpose of developing our city through job retention and expansion. I will ensure that the city remains a strong partner in the Tulsa’s Future program.

Lastly, economic growth begins with quality education. My administration has always recognized the importance of that relationship, and we took it upon ourselves to have an active role in linking our public school system and our business community through the creation of Learning with the Wrench and the Aerospace and Aviation Academy. These programs leave high school students with the skills necessary to get a high-paying job right here in Tulsa. The success of these programs on young Tulsans cannot be understated and we will continue to further the program and produce more students in the future.”

City Councilor Bynum’s Response:

With all the talk in recent months about the possible merger and relocation of Williams, it is easy to forget that the company was built here in Tulsa by one of the greatest business minds of the 20th century.

When John Williams became CEO in 1949, Williams was a regional road and bridge contractor with a market value of $25,000. When he retired in 1978, the company was a corporate juggernaut worth $406,500,000. That represents an average rate of return of 39.7% over 29 years, a staggering number when you consider Warren Buffett (who is rightly held as a financial genius in his own right) is revered for maintaining an average rate of return around 21.6%.

What kind of mindset led to those results? I had the great fortune to spend two days interviewing Mr. Williams before he passed away in 2013 at the age of 94. It became very clear in our discussions that his focus was always on growth. He did not have time for coasting or for settling. His mission as an executive was on growing the company and providing exceptional results to his shareholders.

City Councilor G.T. Bynum

City Councilor G.T. Bynum

That is the same kind of mindset Tulsa needs today. For much of the 20th century, Tulsa had it. We were focused on competing nationally and internationally, garnering recognition as the Oil Capital of the World and America’s Most Beautiful City. But in the recent past we’ve been coasting. We’ve been competing with regional neighbors rather than national rivals. And the numbers show the result of that approach: Tulsa’s population growth has been stagnant for 15 years.

As mayor, my primary focus will be growth. We must return Tulsa’s focus to national competitiveness – where real economic growth exists. That means a willingness to address the greatest barriers to economic growth in Tulsa: perceived educational opportunities and an antiquated form of local government that serves as a distraction.

For half a century, the city government has largely taken a hands-off approach to education. I will convene local education stakeholders to develop an ongoing education strategy and a level of collaboration that puts our schools in a better position to be successful. Our goal will be that Tulsa is once again regarded as the best place in Oklahoma to receive an education.

We will also partner with our neighbors in the suburbs and our colleagues at Tulsa County to undergo a full review of all local governmental functions, with the objective of eliminating sources of conflict. Every week that the mayor and county are at odds over the jail is a week that some other city is luring growth that should have come here. Our goal will be that Tulsa has a local government tailored to its needs in the 21st century so we can work together to compete at a national level.

Our business community deserves an educated work force and a local government that is focused on growth rather than turf warfare. As mayor, I will bring our city together to achieve both.