By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
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.
He and his wife, Martha, lived in Cleveland County for more than 40 years. The couple have six children: Cindy, Sandi, Mark, Kelly, Stephen and Carrie, 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Virgin followed her grandfather’s footsteps into politics and is now serving her second term as state representative for District 44, which includes Norman.
Skinner changed political parties from Democrat to Republican about a decade ago to better represent his constituents. Virgin is a Democrat.
“He and I never had to discuss political party issues,” Virgin said. “Our underlying values were really the same because we both bought into public service and wanted to help people. Being of different political parties was not a problem for us. Honesty and hard work and integrity are not limited by political party.”
Virgin said she has many good memories of her grandfather, but political campaigns tied them together.
“It was really, really neat for me to get to work on all of his campaigns, but one of the best memories was how dedicated he was to helping me get elected,” Virgin said. “He was out there knocking (on) doors and calling everyone he could. I remember at my watch party, he was just beaming because he was so proud that I followed in his footsteps of public service.”
A wake to remember Skinner will be 6:30 Thursday night at St. Andrews Catholic Church in Moore. The funeral mass will follow at 10 a.m. Friday, also at St. Andrews.
The family is requesting that contributions be made to McKenzie Gardens in lieu of flowers.
In January 2012, Skinner announced that he would not run for re-election and summed up his feelings about his life as a county commissioner with the following comments: “It’s been very humbling that the voters have allowed me to be a public servant for so many years. It’s been a great ride. May God bless each and every one of you.”