Meet your city councilor: Phil Lakin Jr.
South Tulsa native Phil Lakin Jr. has just begun his first term on the Tulsa City Council. On top of his role at the Tulsa Community Foundation, where he serves as CEO, Lakin is excited to bring about infrastructure improvements in District 8 and to work with fellow councilors to make Tulsa a better place. When he’s not serving the community, he enjoys spending time with his wife Adriane and three sons, Brooks, Alex and Cooper.
This is your first term on the city council. How’s it going so far?
It’s going great. I love being a city councilor and having a chance to represent District 8, which is where I’m from. Every single house that I’ve live in here has been in District 8. It’s nice to represent the people from “down south,” so to speak.
Why did you decide to run for city council?
Well, I really am in love with our city, to begin with, and I wanted to be able to serve the city that I love — even beyond what I do here with the Community Foundation. I also was just extremely tired of the negative tones within the city council, and I just didn’t think that it was properly representing good, positive attitudes that Tulsa citizens had.
It seemed the corporate and philanthropic sectors were working very well and the citizens at large were very enthusiastic about Tulsa (but) there was just a lack of progress taking place at City Hall. On my priority list was … just to make the city council a place of reason and hope and vision, if you will. I think when I knocked on doors, nine times out of 10 they just wanted City Hall to be cooperative again like it was back in the good old days.
And so, I think we’ve come full circle since this new council came in. I’m very pleased with who the other councilors are, what they represent, what their goals are. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, and I hope we get some more time to continue to be as successful as I think we’re being right now.
What, so far, do you think you are most proud of?
I think we’re really setting ourselves up as a unique council … We’re the first council and mayor to create a common list of goals. So, we have 16 goals that we’re working on together; we took a retreat, we spent a day together devising goals around five different subject areas, and now we have task forces that are out there dealing with river development and beautification and business development and all these other areas. Every agenda that we have, it seems like, is bringing one of those goals back up to review and focus in on a little bit.
We had the three superintendents (Jenks, Union and Tulsa Public Schools), six city councilors and some board members from those school districts sit down and focus our efforts on what we need to continue to improve funding for education and the educational setting for our kids. Kirby Lehman (superintendent of Jenks Public Schools) said that in his 23 years as a superintendent he had never met with the city council as a collective.
The governor hosted us in her home back in May. It was the first time that the governor had hosted the Oklahoma City and Tulsa city councilors and mayors … Not only did we get to eat with each other, but we got to learn from each other. We got to hear about common means and common opportunities that we have. I mean, it just seems so rational with what we’re doing, and you would’ve expected past councilors and mayors to do it, but here we are as the first group of 10, including the mayor, to ever do it.
I think we’re really breaking some new ground, and it’s going to provide for some very positive outcomes if we just keep with it. And I know that not all of our outcomes will be successful. We will have some things that we fail on, but at least we’re trying, and we know where we’re going and how to judge ourselves.
Is there a top priority on that list of goals you’ve created?
We didn’t rank them by number; we just classified them by area. (One of the goals is to) develop the economy, which includes optimizing the Arkansas River, growing energy, promoting tourism; making local government efficient and reliable; developing transportation systems for future needs; beautifying Tulsa; and (improving) public safety.
What are you most hoping to contribute to District 8?
Our critical need down in south Tulsa (is) just our infrastructure. We don’t have very many sidewalks — good sidewalks — that connect our neighborhoods … to our trails or … schools, so having those added now, or at least when our roads are being refurbished or widened, will really help us get around without always having to use a car. Right now we have to drive our bikes to the trail, which is kind of oxymoronic; it just doesn’t make any sense.
(Another need is) widening the streets. We’ve had those same two-lane streets since I learned how to drive … back in ’82 or ’83. Some of them haven’t even been repaved since then. So, repaving and widening is critical because that affects the amount of time it takes to get home, but also commerce and so many other things that take place in south Tulsa. We’ve got to do it wisely; I don’t want to chainsaw down all the 100-year-old oaks just because we think we need a five-lane road. Maybe we can get by with a four-lane road and leave the trees up.
(We also need to make) the roads safe, too. We’ve got a lot of hills in south Tulsa … You can’t see over the hills, and you can’t see around the corners.
What are some of the highlights of District 8?
Oh, it’s the most beautiful part of Tulsa beyond any doubt. It’s our people, it’s our neighborhoods, it’s our retail areas — which we don’t have a lot of. But we have everything that we need in south Tulsa, from grocery stores to bakeries to office complexes and things … Just as midtown has unique areas, south Tulsa is a very unique area of Tulsa.
It’s great from a safety standpoint and a perspective of raising families and getting a good, quality public education … TPS, Union and Jenks all touch portions of District 8, so it really depends where you live, but the schools that our kids go to are outstanding.