City Council reorganizes, receives Gala update

Mike Erwin |

At the May 1 reorganizational meeting of the Pawhuska City Council, Rodger Milleson was sworn in as the newly-elected councilman at large.

Milleson, the owner of a local oilfield services company, joins the council as a result of defeating incumbent at-large member Cindy Tillman in the Feb. 14 municipal election. He received 293 votes compared to 218 for Tillman, who had served on the council since 2010.

The annual reorganization of the Council officers included only one change, as Roger Taylor was chosen to succeed Tillman as vice mayor. Taylor has been a councilor since 2011 and previously served as mayor in 2013-14.

Mark Buchanan was chosen to continue his service as mayor and the council’s other minister, the Rev. Travis Finley, was re-named chaplain.

City officials recognized two Pawhuska High School seniors for their high academic standing within the graduating Class of 2017. Madelyn Priest, this year’s PHS valedictorian, was designated as Honorary Student Mayor. (Priest is the niece of outgoing vice mayor Cindy Tillman.)

Earlier in the day, Priest had attended an honor student luncheon at the Community Center and spent time visiting with various city department heads.

Pawhuska School Superintendent Janet Neufeld made her first presentation to the Council since being hired last May. Neufeld briefly explained the district’s main curriculum objective to the council members.

“Our goal is to have students ready to work and be good citizens,” the superintendent said.

She also briefed the council regarding the school district budget and some anticipated state budget cuts.

“We’ve already lost $110,000 and expect to lose another $80,000 or $90,000 before the end of June,” Neufeld said. “Our reserves are adequate, but we are facing some challenges — as I know you are.”

Council member Stephen Holcombe said he would be in favor of the city and schools partnering in pursuing grants and other funding opportunities.

Holcombe also expressed appreciation to city officials for their providing of enhanced data to explain financial items such as budget and payroll.

“For the first time since I got here, I feel like I really understand what I’m voting on,” said Holcombe, who joined the council precisely one year ago.

Pawhuska Hospital Administrator Godwin Fey presented the Council with a financial-analysis report. The native of Cameroon also revealed that, on the previous Friday, he had become a naturalized U.S. citizen — which he said was a great honor for him.

Chamber of Commerce Director Joni Nash gave an economic development report and informed council of recent tourism opportunities that had been brought to her attention.

Nash also reported on the recent Chamber Gala, “a huge success,” which she said had exceeded all expectations as a fundraising event.

“There were over 320 people in attendance — which was even more than last year (when the Gala was held as a highly-charged open house for the renovated Pioneer Woman Mercantile Building),” Nash explained. “The live auction raised $44,000.”