Miles: Long-term plan needed

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com
Laban Miles

Laban Miles has lengthy experience as a Pawhuska city employee, and he’s been in the position of going before the City Council as a resident to ask for that panel’s assistance; now, he’d like his fellow residents to consider voting him onto the council.

Miles, 65, is a candidate for the Ward 2 seat on the Pawhuska City Council. The primary election is Tuesday and Miles is one of two people challenging the incumbent councilor for the seat. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Presbyterian Church and Calvary Baptist Church. Early voting will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday at the Election Board office.

All registered voters who live in Pawhuska are eligible to participate. If no candidate receives 50 percent plus one, there will be a runoff April 2 in the general election.

Miles worked for the Pawhuska Fire Department more than 25 years, including service as interim chief. He said that he chose to work a firefighter shift rather than taking the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. office job as chief, so he was designated “interim.”

Miles has also worked construction, and he laid carpet for more than 30 years. He had a carpet store for a portion of that time. He retired from the fire department about 10 years ago, and then really retired, overall, about three years ago.

If elected, Miles said he intends to check on things himself to make sure he really knows what he’s talking about.

“I’d like to be prepared for what’s coming on,” Miles said. He said members of the current council who encouraged him to run said it would just be one meeting a month, but he didn’t buy into the idea that the task would be a light load. Miles said he knows he will have to read and study and be ready.

Miles said he favors designating at least some time in meetings for citizen comments. He said he knows that can “open a can of worms at times,” but he wants to see some time set aside.

“I want to work for what’s best for the city as a whole,” Miles said, explaining that includes residents of Pawhuska and city workers. As a former city employee, he has an in-depth understanding of the perspective of city employees.

“A lot of people think the city council runs the city,” he said, noting that the city manager runs the day-to-day operations.

“I think we need to try to get along a little bit more,” Miles said, though he acknowledged there will probably always be a bit of a “rub” here or there. He said that he favors using constructive criticism and a diplomatic approach to settling differences. Miles also wants to encourage the city manager and department heads to spend sufficient time in one-on-one consultation and wants city employees actually doing tasks to have their views considered.

Asked if he favors council involvement in promoting economic development, he said, “A little bit. We’ve got to support the development, but we’ve got a Chamber of Commerce that’s supposed to bring stuff into town.”

“I’d like to see that go on, but it’s not one hundred percent in the council’s duties,” Miles said. He said that he thinks the council needs to understand its duties and perform those, “as opposed to trying to fix the world.”

Miles is familiar with the role of the citizen who wants to be heard by his municipal government. He addressed the council last October about a proposal to increase the annual charge for lakefront lots at Bluestem Lake. Miles, who had been the victim of a break-in, said he wanted more for the $350 per year he already pays and asked the city for a lake patrol.

Asked last week if he had received satisfaction in regard to that request, Miles said his next step will probably depend on how the election goes. If he’ s elected, he may talk with people on the council about the issue, but if he’ s not elected he may seek to get on the council agenda again.

“One way or another, I feel like we’re going to have to address it again,” he said. He clarified that he doesn’t know what city officials may have discussed among themselves, and he isn’t sure if the police are getting out to the lake more. If he gets elected, he’ll try to make a determination whether to bring the issue up quickly or wait until a later point.

His family members have lived in Pawhuska since before statehood, and he’s a member of the Osage Nation. Laban was a member of the Pawhuska High School graduating class of 1972.

Miles said he will likely go around and consult with people if elected.

Infrastructure is an area where he sees a role for the council in longer-term planning. If that is not done, “we’re going to end up in a real bind on some of that,” Miles said.

City workers do a good job of maintaining what Pawhuska has, but less maintenance would be needed if infrastructure is brought up to date, he said.