If the Tulsa City Council had groupies like a rock band, then the president of the fan club would most definitely be John Huffines.
Huffines is without a doubt the most regular attendee at council meetings. Every Thursday night, he is there, rain or shine.
Huffines says he remembers only three meetings he has missed since he decided to attend regularly in January 2008.
Council chairman G.T. Bynum says Huffines has a better attendance record than most councilors.
Not only does Huffines attend the meetings, but he is also one of the most vocal audience members.
He prints the agenda on Tuesdays — it’s always posted online by 5 p.m., he says — and decides on which agenda items he will comment.
His favorites include commending people who are appointed or reappointed to commissions, thanking police officers and firefighters, and supporting pro-life initiatives.
He writes brief notes at home (no speaker has more than five minutes to speak during the entire meeting), turns in speaker requests before the meeting and reads his prepared comments before the council votes on the item.
At a recent meeting, Huffines thanked Louis Reynolds and Jim Cameron for their excellent attendance records and availability to be reappointed to the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority.
“May the Holy Spirit continue to be their guide as they make important decisions affecting the city,” Huffines told the council. “We are fortunate to have such great citizens, volunteers and employees that are vital to Tulsa.”
Bynum says Huffines has personally thanked every person who has been appointed or reappointed or whose term has expired on a commission.
“He clearly reads the agenda beforehand, never goes over his time limit and he always brings the focus back to the positive,” Bynum says. “So often in a public meeting, things can get negative and bitter.”
Without realizing it, Huffines has even influenced a vote or two.
Bynum recalls that during the previous City Council’s leadership, a woman came before the council to appeal a citation from code enforcers for a front yard that was, as Bynum recalls, “a pit.”
As was her right, the woman spoke to the City Council to appeal the citation. Under normal circumstances, the council would have sided with the city’s code enforcers.
The woman explained that her husband had died, she was in poor health and her son was away in the military, so without any help, her yard had fallen into disrepair.
All the while, Huffines was sobbing as he listened to the woman’s sad story, Bynum says. The councilor sitting next to Bynum asked him, “Is Mr. Huffines crying?” Up and down the row, the councilors gradually noticed Huffines and were touched.
“Everybody felt so bad for John Huffines that we approved the lady’s appeal,” Bynum says.
When he’s not at City Council meetings, Huffines and his wife, Bonnie, play and record music. In 2005, they won Duet of the Year with the Branson Gospel Singer Songwriter Association, and Bonnie won the New Horizon Vocalist award.
While Huffines loves City Council meetings and considers them great fun, he has no plans of running for a seat himself.
“As a citizen, my voice will be as loud as it’s going to be,” he says. “The council really does respect the citizens. I probably speak more than the city councilors now. Maybe others will realize that I’m an everyday person like they are and that they have a voice, too.”