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May 7, 2013

Former commissioner George Skinner dies

NORMAN — Former District 2 Cleveland County Commissioner George Skinner, 77, died Monday. Skinner served the county for 22 years before retiring last year. He battled illness during the last year of his life, but those who knew him said he never gave up the fight.

“I loved being a county commissioner,” Skinner said shortly after announcing his retirement. “There were always different things to do, different people to meet with. I just really enjoyed it — if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have done it for 22 years.”

Skinner first took office Jan. 7, 1991. At that time most of the roads in the eastern part of the county were dirt or rock. Today most of those county roads are paved.

“My road crew is better than anybody’s,” Skinner said in an interview in December as he reflected on his long career. “We surfaced and resurfaced enough roads — you can travel to Dallas and all the way back.”

That desire to improve Cleveland County characterized Skinner’s years in office.

“I was four when he ran for the first time, so all I can really ever remember is him being a county commissioner,” said granddaughter, Emily Virgin. “He was just so passionate about helping people in Cleveland County.”

Skinner worked hard maintaining roads and running the county and, in election years, Virgin said he worked hard knocking on doors and connecting with people. A large Skinner family helped out during campaign season.

“That’s how I grew up, knocking (on) doors during a campaign,” Virgin said. “Every weekend during campaign season for him, we had an army knocking (on) doors.”

Skinner was a veteran of the United States Air Force Reserve and served in many capacities in the community, including the board of directors of McKenzie Gardens Housing Center for the mentally ill, chairman of the Cleveland County Board of Health, the boards of Workforce Development and Workforce Investment Agencies, and the Community Service Building.

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