NORMAN — District 2 County Commissioner Darry Stacy wants to build bridges in Cleveland County, but he’s not just talking infrastructure. Stacy wants to bridge communities and agencies to create a smooth working, successful county culture.
“One of my biggest goals is to partner with the cities and bring everybody together under one umbrella,” he said.
Stacy took the oath of office for the first time in January, replacing long- time incumbent George Skinner who retired at the end of his term. Skinner chose not to run again, and Stacy had to compete against a broad field of candidates for the position. A long-term Norman police officer and member of the Norman Public School Board, Stacy brings a fresh perspective to the county office.
“Obviously, my life has been in public service,” he said.
He sees his new job as a continuation of that public service and believes that county government is the form of government most close to the people. He said there are fewer layers between the people and county officials than there are in city or state government.
Cleveland County is one of the oldest in the state and was named after President Grover Cleveland, Stacy said.
“It was almost named Little River County, Mansur County and Lincoln County,” he said.
Norman is the county seat, and Stacy is a long-time Norman resident. He lives just a short distance from the District 2 County Warehouse where most of the D2 equipment, gravel and sand are stored.
Stacy said former commissioner George Skinner’s road crew has remained intact.
“I think the guys are excited,” he said. “George Skinner did an awesome job. It’s my hope to build on that. I think I bring a new vision of technology and partnerships.”
Cleveland County has the third largest county population in the state, covers 558 square miles and was the fastest growing of the bigger counties from 2010 and 2011, Stacy said.
District 2 has 400 total road miles, 186 of which are in areas not incorporated by cities or towns. There are 13 miles of gravel roads in the county, he said.
Plans for 2013 include several road and bridge projects in partnership with Moore, Norman, the Absentee Shawnee Tribe and the state.
“Our plan, which is growing, is to do 26 miles of chip and seal and eight and a half miles of paved road,” he said.
The county also will work with the state on the widening of Highway 9 at the 180th Street intersection.
“It’s yet to be determined how much we’ll do,” he said.
Stacy said he has hit the ground running. County government is fast paced.
“I love that because I love to stay busy,” he said.
Stacy likes a challenge and he is excited about working with his fellow county commissioners Rod Cleveland and Rusty Sullivan.
“What’ I’d really like to do is create a vision for where Cleveland County is going to go in the next 20 years,” he said.
For road work, Stacy will rely heavily on his road foreman, Paul Meyer who manages the county warehouse and crew.
“That’s big business building roads, maintaining roads and it takes experience to do that,” Stacy said.
In addition to building, repairing and maintaining roads and bridges, county crews help residents with tin horns, mow right-of-ways, replace signs and more.
D2 employees 16 people at the warehouse and adds seasonal help for mowing.
Safety training is important to keep employees working with large equipment safe.
“We have to stay on top of that,” he said.
Most mechanical repairs are done in-house at the warehouse, but maintenance is the key element to keeping large machinery operational, he said.
“We do continual maintenance so we can keep them on the road,” Stacy said. “The work we do is hard on the equipment.”
To help protect equipment from weather, he and his crew have been building and expanding protective sheds, but Oklahoma weather is extreme and the men and equipment are sometimes out in the worst extremes of heat and cold. That takes a toll on machinery and men.
Stacy has been able to purchase barely used equipment from the military.
“It’s a huge saving to the county and it’s excellent equipment for us to use,” he said.
The current D2 shop was built in 1972.
“We’re in the process of building a new shop right now and remodeling this shop,” he said. “It’s one of the projects George (Skinner) told me he would love to see completed.”
Each county district also has a sign crew to replace stop signs and others when they are knocked down, stolen or vandalized.
“These guys are on call 24-7,” he said.
Replacing stop signs to save lives is just one of the many services the county provides to residents.
“The things we do affect people on a daily basis,” he said.
He said his road crews and most county employees take a sense of pride in their work.
Beside roads and bridges, people come to the county courthouse for taxes, marriage licenses, land records and more.
As chief administrators, county commissioners work with other county officials on overseeing budgets, maintaining the courthouse and other county buildings, and co-ordinating with the health department, juvenile services, extension center and more.
“It takes a very good manager to keep all these together,” he said. “There’s definitely not a lack of work to be accomplished in the county.”
Bringing the communities together is key for the future, he said.
“We build off of each other. Each city has its own individual identity, but how can we work on these projects together?” he said. “There’s so much benefit for the county and region if we’ll work together.
“Look at what Oklahoma City has done and how that has benefited us. We have to think beyond Cleveland County and think regionally about how we can help each other.”
Stacy said his personal priorities are faith, family and service to community, job and county.
“The key is keeping those priorities straight,” he said.