Tonya Bright to continue as interim city manager

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

In the aftermath of the failure of the Pawhuska City Council's most recent attempt to recruit a city manager, the council has decided to give interim City Manager Tonya Bright the opportunity to continue in the position for six months, and evaluate her performance.

Bright served a few weeks as interim manager in the summer of 2019, before Dave Neely became the manager on Aug. 1 of that year. Neely resigned in mid-March 2020, after about 7½ months on the job, and Bright was again called upon to fill the manager position. She served as both city manager and city clerk until earlier this month.

In late July, the council voted 5-0 to offer the city manager job to Anthony Rogers, a former deputy chief of police in Ponca City. A week later, the council held an emergency meeting to withdraw the offer to Rogers.

In late October, the council voted 5-0 to offer the post to Jacob Wilmott, of Owasso, who had been working for the Osage Nation. Wilmott was scheduled to report for work as city manager on Nov. 12, but in a meeting on Nov. 5 the deal officially fell apart. Wilmott said he would be exploring other career options, and city officials said they would be moving on.

City officials clarified for the Journal-Capital that there is currently no intention to advertise again for a city manager in the immediate future. Instead, Bright will continue in the job. She announced last week that she had selected Donna Kennedy to fill the post of city clerk, with the result that Bright will be able to focus her energy entirely on the city manager job.

Bright is a Pawhuska resident who has come up through the ranks at City Hall. She has demonstrated a can-do willingness to get out in the aftermath of major weather events and work alongside the city workers she is responsible for supervising. It was an important promotion for her when she was named city clerk when Barbara Smith retired, but events have conspired to push her forward into the city manager position.