Stillwater News Press

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April 1, 2012

Payne County Commissioner candidate seeks promotion

STILLWATER, Okla. — Zach Cavett started working for Payne County at the bottom, and he’s looking to be elected to the top spot of commissioner for District 1 Tuesday.

He started working on county road and bridge crews out of high school and spent 10 years working for the county. When he resigned his position in September, Cavett said, he had worked his way up and served as shop foreman for four years.

Seeing county road crews from all perspectives, he said, has given him valuable perspective needed to be a county commissioner.

“That’s given me the experience building roads and bridges and knowing the cost of maintaining and handling the funds to provide the equipment and materials necessary to keep the roads maintained,” Cavett said.

While he is 34 years old, Cavett said he has also run a furniture store and owns rent houses, which he said gives him budget management experience despite his age.

One of the first things Cavett said he’d like to see done is create a comprehensive preventive maintenance program for roads and bridges that are in most need of repair. He said he’d like to start a similar program with county equipment to try and reduce that cost.

Reducing equipment cost, Cavett said, is also about making sure the county has the right equipment for the job.

“There’s a lot of wasted money by using the equipment that is not made to do a specific job, so it wears it out faster,” he said.

Oversized equipment can tear up county roads that aren’t designed for that kind of weight.  District 1 Commissioner Bill Deering settled on a deal with the pipeline company TransCanada for more than $800,000 to repair damage done by heavy equipment on county roads during the Keystone pipeline construction.

Cavett said he wants to keep open lines of communication with other oil and gas companies that are operating in the area. He added that he wouldn’t hesitate to speak to companies about possible financial assistance to help repair roads that are damaged.

“It’s not necessarily just the pipelines running, it’s the heavy tankers coming in and out of the tank farms all day long,” Cavett said.

Open lines of communication, he said, are also important for county residents.

“Everybody will understand what’s going on and I think people are more willing to be patient or more willing to maybe assist if they know what’s going on and they see progression, if they see things happening,” Cavett said.

Residents become frustrated, he added, when they hit a closed road that wasn’t properly marked. Cavett said he wanted to publicize closed roads ahead of time so residents don’t end up late to work because they didn’t know what was going on.

“I encourage people to call in if there is a problem, and I plan to drive the roads myself to see any problems that might be arising, and that way the people that don’t get to town very often … will stop you and you can talk with them about their concerns,” he said.

Safety, Cavett said, is also a concern. If emergency responders don’t know of a closed road, it can cause response delays. He also said he wanted to immediately work to clear overgrown intersections where signs may be obscured. Making intersections safer, Cavett said, is a big goal.

“There are a lot of dirt road (intersections) where there are no stop signs anywhere,” he said. “Some people don’t know you’re supposed to yield to the right and they drive right through, so there’s been multiple accidents since I’ve worked in the county due to that.”

According to documents filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission March 27, Cavett’s campaign has spent $4,839.69 during the election. Of that, $2,950 came from one donor in the form of a $500 check and $2,450 of in-kind advertising contributions.

The Oklahoma Political Subdivisions Ethics Act defines contributions as both monetary as well as in-kind services including advertising. The act states the limit from a person or family to $5,000 for a candidate running for county office with a county population of more than 250,000 people. In the case of counties with a population smaller than that, the act states the contribution limit is $1,000.

When asked about the contribution, Cavett said that when he read it he was under the impression the limit was $5,000.

Once candidates' campaign activity exceeds $500, the Oklahoma Ethics Commission requires candidates to file a financial disclosure statement within 10 days. According to documents, Cavett’s campaign reached that mark March 7, and that form was filed March 27. When asked about that form, Cavett said he wasn’t told about the requirements to submit forms until later in his campaign and then contacted the ethics commission and submitted all of his forms.

“I’ll be a little more careful and I’ll know about the dates next time,” he said.

NewsPress reporter Anita Pere contributed to this report.

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