Editors note: This is part of an ongoing series of conversations with city and county officials, beginning in Carter County before branching out into greater Southern Oklahoma. This week features Ardmore Mayor Martin Dyer.
Q: When was your first term as a city commissioner and how did that come about?
A: “My first term was in 1980 and I had three or four citizens come up and ask me if I would run for commissioner because they had somebody that they wanted to try to get out. And, I guess I was kinda a good guy. This was in Ward One because I lived in the NW part of town then. The guy that they were trying to get out actually didn’t file against me, but I had others that I was up against. I won the election and I served in 1980 until 1983. During that time I had moved from Ward One over to Ward Three so I could not run for re-election. So, I was out for two years. But, in 1985 the Ward Three representative went to go work for the city and had to drop off the commission. So they appointed me, and I’ve been there ever since.”
Q: What originally sparked your interest in municipal government?
A: “Well, I got interested in municipal government because I was born and raised here. I’ve always had an interest in the city. My grandparents lived here, my mother and dad lived here, and all my family lived here and it is just my hometown. I did a little tour of duty in the Legislature from 1959- 1963 and that kinda got me interested in government. I really hadn’t thought much about running for the city commission until these people asked me to.”
Q: How do you think being in the Legislature differs from being a city commissioner?
A: “I don’t know if it’s that much different. You’re just representing different entities. When I was in the legislature we went by counties, and I represented Carter County. A lot of the issues are the same, but the state agencies are different from the city. I find city government is not that much different.”
Q: How have you seen Ardmore change over the years?
A: “I have seen Ardmore grow and develop, not spectacular, not a boom town, but I’ve seen it grow slow and steady. It’s spread out quite a bit. Rockford Road was not in existence 30 years ago. In fact I believe the interstate was just barely in existence because it was built in the late 70s, I think. Ardmore had not grown out to the interstate during that time. It was mostly concentrated downtown, and since that time we have grown considerably commercially.”
Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge you face being a city commissioner?
A: “Right now I think the biggest challenge is the budget. Unfortunately, sales tax is our lifeblood. Going down the chain of economics you might say, sales tax is dependent on retail, and to have retail you need growth and development. I think a challenge we face is trying to get retail. We’ve got the new shopping center going in on 12th and that will be a big help. Success brings success. If you bring one in the others will follow. I consider that my biggest challenge. I try to do what I can to help balance the budget and help bring in retail to meet that challenge.”
Q: Are there any businesses that Ardmore doesn’t have that you would like to see come here?
A: “Of course we would like to get certain businesses in here. But a lot of them won’t come because we haven’t grown enough yet. They have an operation base that we haven’t met. I’m talking about the big box chains. It seems like more and more of the chains are coming, I think this new shopping center will bring some. Like I said, success brings success.”
Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge the people of Ardmore face?
A: “I think one challenge is to stay focused on the community and to continue to support our growth and development. Maybe shop Ardmore more. We may not all want just a big increase in population, but we all want to see the city prosper. I think Ardmore is very fortunate to have what we do have.”
Q: Are there any particular projects you are most excited about?
A: “I’m most excited about the Streetscape. That’s been my vision since the start. I was also excited to see the new Lincoln School, I think that will be good for the school district.
Q: Do you think you will run for another term as a commissioner?
A: I would like to run for one more term so I can see my pet project, the Streetscape project, finish. I know every time it seems like there is something you have going that you want to see completed. I just hope that I’ve done a good enough job over the years for people to stick with me another term. The people of Ardmore have been good to me. My family has been here since 1908, so I’ve got a big interest. Being a commissioner is something I feel like I can do. It’s time consuming but I’m retired and it’s a service I feel like I can do.”
Q: So, your family was here during the train car explosion of 1915? Did you ever hear stories about that growing up?
A: “Oh, yeah, I heard stories about the train car. My dad used to tell me he was here when the explosion happened. My granddad owned a building down on East Main that was wiped out during the explosion. My granddad was mayor in the 1920s, and when the city changed over from the mayor form of government to the city manager form of government, he was the first city manager. So, we’ve got a little history back there.”
Q: Out of all your terms as a city commissioner, what has been your proudest accomplishment?
A: “One thing that I’m proud of is intangible, but one thing I think we did that’s really been beneficial is back in my first term we passed what we called eight in the 80s. We passed a one percent sales tax and called it eight in the 80s because there were eight projects that we wanted to do with the money during the decade. I can’t remember all of the projects but we pledged at that time that if they passed it we would take half a penny to do the projects and the other half would be used for the street program. Not routine maintenance, but for street improvements. We just gave our word for it, and even now we still have it and use it for street improvements. Every year we do a lot of improvements with it and it’s been a good program.”