Council hires Eubanks as interim city manager

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Pawhuska city councilors voted, 4-1, on Thursday night, Dec. 16, to appoint Jerry Eubanks to the position of interim city manager. Councilor Steve Tolson cast the dissenting vote.

Eubanks’ formal start date was set for Jan. 11.

"But I will be in and out starting tomorrow," he told councilors. He said later that it was possible his start date might be moved up.

Eubanks will fill a vacancy created when Interim City Manager Tonya Bright announced Dec. 2 that she would step down for personal reasons. Bright will still be working for city government, but Eubanks will be taking over as the top administrator.

Eubanks, who lives in the Pawhuska area, has been working for several months as manager of the Blackwell Utility Trust Authority, and as Blackwell's assistant city manager. He resigned for personal reasons in April 2021 from the position of city manager for Fairview, Oklahoma.

Eubanks had worked for Fairview since October 2015, when he became a crew worker for its utility department. He moved up to the position of interim city/trust manager for Fairview in October 2017, and he became the permanent (non-interim) city/trust manager in April 2018.

Pawhuska councilors voted to hire Eubanks after several executive session discussions of the interim city manager position.

Eubanks, 55, has followed an unlikely career path. He explained to the Journal-Capital in a conversation the night of Dec. 16 that his story is one of divine redemption from a life of criminal activity.

Eubanks told the Journal-Capital that he became involved with drugs in the early 2000s and ended up in prison. He said that he became an addict and "had no moral values."

He related how he had a conversation with God on Dec. 18, 2008, while incarcerated in a federal prison.

"God told me to choose what I wanted to do and go get it, and He would take care of me from there," Eubanks said. After that life-changing event, he began taking self-improvement courses in prison and earned more than 60 course-completion certificates.

Eubanks said he served seven years in prison, paying his debt to society. He was prosecuted in both federal and state courts.

The Fairview Republican newspaper reported April 15 that Eubanks had resigned from the city manager job in that community. The newspaper's article included a comment from Fairview Mayor Dana Baldwin, who reportedly said, "Jerry, you have done more for this city in your time as city manager than I have seen in the whole time I have lived here. I appreciate you and everything you have done and I believe everyone else in the room feels the same way."

Pawhuska has seen significant turnover in its city manager position during the past four years. It has had two interim city managers -- Bright, and the late Larry Eulert of Hominy. Dave Neely was the only permanent (non-interim) city manager during the past four years and he had been on the job less than a year when he resigned. On two other occasions, the City Council attempted to hire a permanent city manager, but the hiring attempts failed.

Eubanks said he looks forward to serving the people of Pawhuska.

”I work for them,” he said. “I want them to tell me what they want in their community.”