Pawhuska voters will participate Tuesday, Feb. 11 in a primary election for the at-large seat on the city council. There will be four candidates, and the two who receive the most votes will go on to a runoff April 7 unless someone recieves a majority of the vote. If any of the four gets 50 percent plus one, the issue is decided.
Candidates for the at-large council seat can live anywhere in the city, and all Pawhuska registered voters can participate in this election. For detailed information about absentee ballots, please see information provided on Page A3 of this edition of the Journal-Capital.
Candidates for the at-large seat include Byron Cowan, Rodger Milleson, Amber Nash and Steve Tolson.
Cowan is the principal of Pawhuska Elementary School, which currently serves about 160 children in grades 3-5. He also fills in as a school bus driver when needed. Cowan has lived in Pawhuska about five years and said he has put down roots in the community — by getting married and buying a home.
Cowan said his interest in running for city council grew out of discussions with friends. The talking turned essentially into griping, and he recalls that someone said, “Somebody needs to do something.” Cowan recalls that his reaction to that was, “I guess somebody does.” So, he’s running.
“I’m tired of the city being in the news for negative things,” Cowan said, explaining that he felt that way about the schools in the past, when they were in the news because of negative events. “We’ve got to turn things around.”
Cowan said he thinks it is particularly important for city government to have a plan for what it wants to accomplish, and to effectively communicate that plan to the public.
“When people don’t know, they’re going to make it up,” he said. “Or just assume you’re not doing anything.”
Milleson, a Pawhuska native, is the incumbent at-large member of the city council. He is completing a three-year term, and is the owner of Milleson Oil Field Service. Milleson explained that he thinks one of the most important things he has done as a city councilor is to make himself accessible to citizens who want to talk with someone about problems or questions.
“People don’t have to agree with me for me to take care of their deal,” Milleson said. “They don’t necessarily have to like me or agree with me.”
He explained that when residents have problems, he is willing to help them get in touch with the city manger, or any other city government official.
“I bring everybody’s opinion to the table, and there’s more than one way to get things done,” Milleson said. He noted that he listens carefully, even to folks who don’t like Pawhuska.
“I deal with Pawhuska haters all the time,” Milleson said. “I try to promote Pawhuska.”
He explained that he particularly sees himself as a representative of people of limited financial resources.
“The rich people don’t need me,” he said. “The people I represent are the guys that don’t have a job, or work at McDonald’s.”
Nash, who is a 1970 graduate of Pawhuska High School, is a retiree who worked for 28 years for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency. She had the opportunity, for three years, to represent her fellow employees in negotiations with the Farm Service Agency’s National Office, and says she has always wanted to run for Pawhuska City Council.
Nash explained that she babysat for Janet Holcombe, and always admired Janet during her city government service.
“I believe in this community,” Nash said. “I’m very interested in making Pawhuska safe and healthy. I want people that come here to see that we have a good and strong community.”
Nash said she has an interest in making sure that city employees are well-treated.
“I understand the struggles of employees,” she said. “If we help them, we’ll have better employees. My whole deal is the people.”
Steve Tolson, who is in the insurance and real estate businesses through the Tolson Agency downtown, is a 1980 graduate of Pawhuska High School. He has been a business owner for more than 33 years and said he believes in good planning and organization.
“I felt a desire to give back to the community,” Tolson said, when asked why he had chosen to run. He said that he had simply never had a good opportunity to run for a council seat. He also noted that met with the incumbent, Rodger Milleson, and assured Milleson that he didn’t have a problem with anything Milleson had done.
“I don’t have an agenda,” Tolson said. “That’s first and foremost. I’m running because I finally have the opportunity to run.”
Tolson said that he is a very structured person, having run a business for a long time, and he would bring that quality to city council service.
“I’d probably like to see some of the ordinances updated,” Tolson said, noting that fits in with his structured approach.
“I think Pawhuska has a great number of assets,” he said. “I want to work to enhance those assets.”