Election dates are set with primary races on June 26, run-offs set for Aug. 28 and the general election on Nov. 6.
MIAMI – The race is on for the Ottawa County District No. 1 and No. 3 seats. With the retirement of District No. 1 Commissioner John Clarke, the open seat drew five candidates. Three Democrats have filed, Kevin Dunkel, Mike Furnas, and Ricky Sharp, and two Republicans Mike Moore and Shane Redden.
Ottawa County District No. 3 Commissioner incumbent Russell Earls, a Democrat, will face off with Democrat Will Sampson.
Election dates are set with primary races on June 26, run-offs set for Aug. 28 and the general election on Nov. 6.
Each a county commissioner candidate was asked to provide a biographical and informational statement.
Ottawa County District No. 1 Commissioner Candidates
Sgt. Kevin Dunkel is a lifelong resident of Ottawa County and currently resides in Miami with his wife of 30 years, Jeannie. The couple has been blessed with three sons and three grandsons, Zack, an inspector for 4 State Diesel Company, and his wife Aimee have two sons Braxton and Rowdy. Dunkel’s middle son Clay passed away at age 18 in a motorcycle accident. The couple’s youngest son, Dusty, a painter’s assistant for Newell Coach Corporation and wife Mariah have one son Bentlee.
“My passion for Ottawa County is the reason why I’m officially announcing my candidacy for this position,” Dunkel said.
Dunkel and his family have been members of Bethany Christian Church in Miami for 50 years where he serves as a Deacon and a Trustee.
“At the age of 21, I was hired by the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department as a deputy. Three years later, I decided that it was in the best interest of my family to change professions. I then began driving for USF Holland. I worked as a truck driver for 18 years and became a safety supervisor. After my children were grown, I followed my heart back into law enforcement. I returned to the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department and have worked my way up to the position of supervisor; I am now assigned to work courthouse security where I am dedicated to keeping the employees and citizens safe. When I am not assigned to courthouse security, I work as field deputy supervisor. I am also a qualified firearms instructor,” he said.
“I’ve enjoyed protecting and serving the citizens of Ottawa County as a peace officer. However, I feel like it is time for another change. As with being a deputy sheriff, safety of the citizens is of the utmost importance, I plan to make this a top priority as County Commissioner, I have experience in running equipment and managing a crew, I understand in this tough economy how important it is to manage money and stick to a budget. I believe that can make a difference in Ottawa County Commissioner. I will strive to do what is in the best interest of the community. I would appreciate your support and vote on June 26,” Dunkel said.
Mike Furnas is petitioning voter support as he makes his bid for the position of County Commissioner of District One in Ottawa County.
“Although my experience with several Government agencies in the area make me a credible candidate for the position, my best platform is my love for the land and the people of Ottawa County,” Furnas said. “I was born and raised in the Northern District and my family has farmed the land here for more than a century.”
Furnas graduated Commerce High School in 1979 and attended NEO and then went on to the University of Tennessee and graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Sociology.
“My service in Municipal Government has been with the cities of Commerce and Miami where I learned to work along with many government agencies: Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Oklahoma Emergency Management, the BIA, EPA, DOT, FAA, and FEMA,” he said. “At the City of Miami, I was assigned duties that included Project Coordinator and the Certified Floodplain Manager. In the nearly seven years while at the City of Miami I was able to gain empirical knowledge of the vast world of government and its components. I gained experience while completing projects that included an airport Taxiway, and The ADAWE Central Avenue Bridge where our team sought and obtained funding for the bridge. I am thankful for every person that I have served and served with and would be happy to serve many more. I believe this is a position for an administrator with experience. If elected I pledge to use my experience while not only maintaining roads and infrastructure but in every facet of the job that will add to the vitality of each citizen and our great county. If you feel you want the best, I humbly ask you to vote for me in the upcoming election. Thank you and may God bless you and yours.”
“My name is Ricky Leroy Sharp, some people called me Jake as a nickname. I grew up in Picher, Oklahoma until my early teenage years and then graduated high school from Baxter Springs, Kansas,” Sharp said. “Not long after that, I moved out east of Quapaw where I still reside with my wife of 40 plus years.”
Sharp’s two children attended and graduated from Quapaw Public Schools, and he has eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild that all still reside in Ottawa County.
Sharp has worked as a truck driver for 35 years and done construction on the side and has worked for the county for a little over four years.
“I have learned a lot in these last years working for the county. I work with a group of guys that work hard to keep things running in the District. I would appreciate your vote in the coming election,” Sharp said.
Mike Moore is running for County Commissioner of District 1.
“I have been working for the county for over 8 years and in that time I have identified needs that are obstacles to the mission of our county,” Moore said. “I want to determine strategies to meet goals and objectives, set priorities and a timeline for completing these goals and objectives. And accomplish the works and evaluate the results, to move our district into the future.”
Moore has been in the construction trade for over 25 years and building and maintaining roads.
“I have the knowledge of how to maintain roads and projects for our county. I am committed to supporting our County District 1, and the other districts of Ottawa County to make plans and set priorities for the future of our county,” he said. “I feel strategic planning is important to reaching our goals for the benefit to the citizens of District 1. I want to ensure safe travels on our county roads and continue to exercise sound financial management. I as your commissioner will be transparent, accountable and above all honest. Time for a change in our county and I believe I am the man that can take care of our District with the trust the people deserve.”
Shane Redden is a lifetime area resident who grew up in Picher and lives in Commerce.
“I am running for District 1 County Commissioner. I am a 100% disabled Desert Strom Veteran who works at the County Assessor’s Office. I have 4 children and a Foster child and have been married to my wife, Rebekah for 23 years.
"I am running as a registered Republican and thoroughly believe that the people from this area have great morals and work ethic. I am running for County Commissioner because I think that government should be transparent and for the people and I want to inform the people of my district on what is happening in the county and how it affects their lives. Before I started working at the Courthouse I had no idea really what any of the offices did and I think most of our citizens are in that boat and I think it’s time that we become part of our government instead of being silent partners. I graduated with honors from Picher in 1988, joined the Army in 1989 and served until 1993. I have worked and lived in the area ever since and I am proud of where I am from some of you might know me as the ‘Strongman Guy.’ I hope to meet as many of you as I can and please come out and vote.”
Ottawa County Commissioner District No. 3 Candidates
“It is time for a new voice and a new set of ears to help create a better future for our county,” Will Sampson said. “This county needs someone with high character, honesty, integrity, and new ideas. I am a proud father, husband, and neighbor who has lived in the county for over two decades. I have had the great fortune to develop wonderful relationships with my neighbors around the county and in my service as a volunteer in the Fairland Fire Department. I am invested in this county and in all of the people who live here. I love working with people and will be a steward of the people.”
Sampson also has experience and background in construction equipment and management.
“My experience will help me navigate through the sometimes burdensome state and federal regulations our county must meet while at the same time I will stand up for our own local needs. I will communicate and build relationships with both county employees and with the people themselves, I am ready to rise up and meet the challenges that face us and provide a new vision for the county,’ he said. “ One of my biggest priorities will be fiscal responsibility of everyone’s hard earned tax dollars along with running the county with efficiency. People should have better access to their county officials. The key to a better future will be the close relationship the new county commissioner will have with the constituents. I will be available to all of my neighbors in this county and I will be your voice each and every day. I will listen to everyone, represent everyone, and make their needs a priority. Our county is ready for new leadership and a new way forward.”
Russell Earls’ hometown is Fairland and he is a graduate of Fairland High School. He has been married to his lovely wife Sandra for 39 years, and they have one daughter, Tara (Earls) Parkinson, who is married to Lloyd Parkinson. The Earls have one grandson, Mitchel Ray, 18 months old.
Earls and his wife own and operate a small Angus cattle ranch in Fairland. Both were raised on dairy farms where they developed great work ethics. Sandra is a registered nurse with 30 years’ experience and currently working at St. Francis Hospital. Their daughter, Tara, is an elementary school teacher of 14 years working in the Wyandotte School District. They are members of the United Methodist Church of Fairland.
Earls is a graduate of Northeast Oklahoma Vocational School and has his certification as an OSU Master Cattleman. Earls has led this community as a five-term County Commissioner. He has held many leadership positions including Past President of the Fairland Lions Club, Ottawa County Red Cross Board Member, Workforce Board Member for seven contiguous counties, Legislative Board Member for the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma, Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners.
Earls currently holds numerous leadership position within the County and State including Ottawa County Board Member, Chairman of the Board for Grand Gateway Economic Development Association serving seven counties, President of Circuit Engineering District #1 serving 11 counties, Vice President of Oklahoma Cooperative Circuit Engineering Districts Board serving all 77 counties, and Secretary/Treasurer for the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma. Leadership matters and having a seat at the table and understanding the funding streams is key to Ottawa County’s success.
Earls truly believes that county government functions as a team working together with the citizens of Ottawa County to rebuild our infrastructure, replacing our bridges and making our roads safer. He has been instrumental in providing a new modern courthouse, better-equipped law enforcement, establishing a Floodplain Board and an Emergency Operations Command Center making Ottawa County a certified Storm Ready County. County government’s mission is to keep our citizens safe while providing opportunities for local businesses to grow and new businesses to thrive right here in Ottawa County. Earls has the knowledge, passion, and energy to keep moving Ottawa County into the future.
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.