Stillwater News Press

Lifestyles

June 3, 2014

Payne County commissioner looks back on political career

STILLWATER, Okla. — Jim Arthur is completing his fourth and final term as the commissioner in charge of Payne County’s road district No. 3.

Serving on the county commission is something he’s glad he did but now he wants to change his focus.

“It’s time to hand off,” he said. “I’m at the age where I probably ought to go home and do a couple of things I want to do.”

Arthur said he felt a calling to run in 1998 because the county was talking about expanding its jail and the county commission had just bought land for a new county administration building.

It was a decision that not everyone agreed with because the land was expensive, he said.

He said he promised to work on a solution for the antiquated jail.

After he was elected the county held a series of elections on taxes to build the county administration building, remodel the courthouse and jail annex and finally, to build a new jail.

He said he thinks the public passed those tax proposals because the commissioners represented their districts well and the people respected them.

“If the people don’t care for you much, they’re not going to support what you’re wanting to do,” he said.

Like many people, Arthur thought taking care of county roads was primarily what commissioners did.

He said he was surprised by how much county business the road district commissioners do in addition to maintaining roads, but was also taken aback by the number of county road miles and the number of dead end roads.

It’s a constant balancing act between resident needs and available funding, he said.

He has improved county roads during his time on the commission but says it couldn’t have been done without a 3/8 cent sales tax voters approved that provides $2.5 million in road funding and supports the Payne County Expo Center.

The best part of his job has been the people he’s met and worked with, he said.

Arthur was especially close to former commissioners Bill Deering and Gloria Hesser and says he learned a lot from both of them.

When he first took office, he was used to operating as a home builder. He went to the store and bought something his office needed then expected to turn the receipt in and get reimbursed.

Being told that wouldn’t happen because he hadn’t gotten a purchase order approved ahead of time was a rude awakening.

“I didn’t get reimbursed but I got experience,” he said.

Hesser took him under her wing and taught him about county systems, budgets and purchase orders.

He said a project that gives him a sense of satisfaction is Fairgrounds Road because repaving it provided a bypass for traffic and improved emergency vehicle response times for people living east of Stillwater.

He’s also glad he pushed for installation of a signal at Fairgrounds Road and State Highway 51.

He said he did it because he was concerned about accidents when cars cross four lanes of traffic that’s traveling at high speeds.

The project took two years and required partnering with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the city of Stillwater but it’s something he looks to with pride.

Arthur is going to leave some notes and suggestions for the next commissioner.

Maintaining roads in the face of constant, heavy, oilfield traffic is the biggest challenge road districts face now, he said.

Arthur said the people he’s dealt with and the friends he’s made have made the job worth doing in spite of frustrations and budget worries.

“It’s a good experience,” he said. “If I had it to do again, I wouldn’t hesitate.”

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