Mayor Dewey Bartlett gave his seventh and final State of the City address Tuesday.
Not surprisingly, he spent much of the nearly 27-minute speech at the Cox Business Center recounting the accomplishments of his administration.
He began by reminding the audience that other cities have seen their communities torn asunder by police shootings or other racially charged incidents, but Tulsans responded to the Good Friday and Terence Crutcher shootings by coming together as one Tulsa.
“When our community rallied around a family during crisis, we turned to the strongest powers — love, prayer and unity,” Bartlett said. “Community leaders peacefully led protests, but most importantly, they held rallies where people could safely communicate their feelings and desire for change.
“This is how Tulsa responds to difficult situations.”
By the end of his speech, Bartlett had highlighted dozens of other accomplishments, including putting water in the Arkansas River through the Vision Tulsa sales tax package; creating the Tulsa Aerospace Academy; and working with the Tulsa Regional Chamber to help keep Williams Cos. from leaving town.
When asked, after his speech, what he believes his legacy will be, Bartlett said: “That I did a good job. That I gave it my all.”
He then went on to mentioned the work he did to steer the city out of its financial troubles upon taking office in late 2009; his efforts to keep peace during times of crisis; and the job-training programs he has established for young people.
That was Bartlett’s take on his time in office. But what do the people who worked with him believe are his greatest accomplishments and what his legacy will be?
The Frontier asked city councilors and other officials those questions. Here’s what they had to say.
City Councilor Karen Gilbert
“Mayor Bartlett’s greatest accomplishment is his many visits to different churches in Tulsa. His legacy is keeping the status quo.”
Tulsa Regional Chamber CEO and Chairman Mike Neal
“I think he has had a number of them (accomplishments), but I think one has been his economic development efforts. This region, just simply over the past five years, has helped support the creation of some 29,000 new jobs, many of those in Tulsa. I would say he has been intimately involved in those efforts. From helping to support the retention of the Williams Corp. headquarters in Tulsa to supporting the retention of the American Airlines maintenance base in our city. Those two projects alone (saved) some 10,000 jobs.”
City Councilor Anna America
“I think he did a really good job of strengthening relationships in parts of Tulsa that have felt disenfranchised, especially north Tulsa. That foundation of trust and mutual respect was a key part of why we were able to weather the immediate aftermath of the Terence Crutcher shooting peacefully.
“That would be easy to take for granted if we had not seen how similar incidents have torn other cities apart. He deserves a lot of credit for that.”
Bartlett’s chief of staff, Jarred Brejcha
Brejcha said he believes the mayor has put the city’s fiscal house in order while at the same time pushing through major initiatives without a tax increase.
The KMPG study on government efficiency, pension reform and efforts to get a handle on utility costs are all examples of how Bartlett reined in spending and helped put the city on sound financial footing, Brejcha said.
“If you look at it in terms of securing the financial needs of the city so we can then go do big things, he has really set up the city for success in a lot of areas,” Brejcha said.
Without raising taxes, Brejcha noted, the mayor was able to put water in the Arkansas River, pass major capital-improvement packages, provide operations funding for the city’s Police and Fire departments, fund transportation programs and establish other programs.
“I think his legacy, in my mind, is addressing the financial needs of the city. He is a conservative, so he approaches things as a financial conservative,” Brejcha said. “So he came into it with those types of ideological constraints in his mind, knowing he needed to sure up how City Hall was managed and utilizing its money and the way we utilize our taxing structure.
“You look at what he was able to accomplish within that frame of mind and didn’t have to raise taxes to do it, I think it was a really, really big accomplishment.”
City Councilor Phil Lakin
“I asked my Dad one time what he wanted to be written on his tombstone. He said, ‘My name – everybody’s memory of me will be unique.'”
“I think this is true of Dewey’s seven years in office, too — people will have their own memories of his importance and impact.
“For me, his legacy will be forever tied to the privatization of the Tulsa Zoo. Tried twice before by other city leaders with other mayors, Dewey was able to get the deal done. Credit goes to him, to the Zoo’s executive director at the time, Keegan Young, and to an attorney from New York City, Kevin Goldstein, who followed his girlfriend to Tulsa from New York City.
“The Tulsa Zoo Management Inc. board and I easily negotiated terms with Dewey. He was easy to work with and kept his promises. He saw value in our zoo and its importance to our economy and citizens and instructed his staff to create a solution that would preserve and grow the zoo for decades to come.
“When people have an exceptional experience at our zoo, they can honestly whisper a word of thanks to Dewey, because he was instrumental in creating the partnership that saved our zoo and gave it the opportunity to flourish.”
City Councilor David Patrick
Patrick said Bartlett came into office at a time when the City Council and the Mayor’s Office weren’t always working well together.
“We didn’t move forward; we actually moved backward,” Patrick said. “I think the ability to actually turn around, work with the council, get things accomplished and get things moving forward” was his biggest accomplishment.
He added: “I could sit down and probably pick out one or two projects, but none of them would have ever happened if we didn’t come together and work together as a team to bring Tulsa forward.”
Developer Joe Westervelt
“I think that Dewey is an uncomplicated, straight-forward man whose handshake and word as mayor, businessman or friend means something.
“His involvement in working to help keep Williams in Tulsa, his open, straight-forward dialogue with business leaders, and his taking time to establish relationships with leaders in north Tulsa” are all noteworthy.