Q&A: David Stratton
BOK Financial executive vice president and commercial banking director; 2019 Tulsa Regional Chamber chairman
David Stratton grew up in Claremore but has called Tulsa home since graduate school at the University of Tulsa. Stratton, who works in commercial banking for BOK Financial, is the 2019 Tulsa Regional Chamber chairman.
David Stratton has called Tulsa home for nearly two decades. Following a childhood in Claremore and after attending the University of Oklahoma and earning his MBA from the University of Tulsa, Stratton worked briefly for Williams before devoting 15 years to JP Morgan. In December 2018 he began work at BOK Financial, where he manages the corporate banking group primarily in the Tulsa region. Since 2013, Stratton has served on the board of directors for the Tulsa Regional Chamber. This month he’ll begin a one-year tenure as the chairman of the board.
TulsaPeople sat down with Stratton for an interview to discuss his roles and what’s in store for the Chamber and Tulsa in 2019.
This is a big time for you. You’re making a major career change at the same time you’re becoming the chairman of Tulsa Regional Chamber. How are you balancing all of this at once?
I don’t know if it’s great planning on my part (laughs). None of those was preconceived. In all of these jobs, you have just got to find a good balance. I think a lot of that for me starts at home. I have a great wife (Cassie) who supports me, and lets me do what I need to do. She’s extremely helpful to me. It’ll be a challenge, but I think it’ll be fun.
You’re moving up to the chairman position. What does it mean to you to be in that role to lead to the board?
It’s an honor because Tulsa, as a family, is where we want to be. I care about Tulsa tremendously, and I care about what goes on here. I want it to be a place where my girls want to be, and for me all that starts with what we are doing to promote things via economic development and creating opportunities for them. I’m excited about it.
What do you see as the biggest challenge for you, individually, and for the Chamber in 2019?
For me, it all has to start with education and workforce development. Education is an issue that, while we’ve made some progress in the last 12 months, I still think we have a long way to go. What we’ve done with getting teachers a pay raise is the tip of the iceberg, and I still think there is a lot of work to be done there.
My girls go to public schools. Classroom sizes are still way too large. So advocating on common ed is a big piece. I still think there are issues within higher ed that need to be addressed, as well, and certainly in Tulsa, particularly as it relates to funding, collaboration with the business community and graduating more students who want to stay in Tulsa and with degrees that Tulsa companies need.
On the other issue of workforce development, I still think in Tulsa we can do a lot better job of listening to our employers and helping them find people that will address the skillsets they need, and collaborating better between higher ed and the business community, technical schools, you name it, to really address the workforce we use.
Are there any other big issues on the Chamber’s radar that you feel are important to create a thriving environment in Tulsa?
Continuing to get the word out and really being an advocate for everything from a diversity and inclusion perspective. It’s been a real focus, from the board perspective, getting more diversity on the board.
The other part for me is when you think about the Chamber’s overall mission to create more jobs. I’m convinced that companies and cities that make diversity and inclusion a bigger priority over time will have economic development advantages, as well. The reason for that is because millennials and young people want to go to work in more progressive cities and for companies that create more opportunities for women and minorities. That will always be a focus of mine.
Chamber staff, elected officials, business leaders, educational administrators, regional partners and young professionals recently traveled to Columbus, Ohio. What did you take away from that trip that will help Tulsa?
We took a lot away from the trip. We initially picked Columbus for a few different reasons. One of the things they’ve done is leverage the community college system they have. It’s like Tulsa Community College. The higher ed piece and how they leverage that was a critical part for me and many other attendees. And we got to see what they’ve done with their downtown. They’ve done some great things in terms of making it more walkable and connecting different parts of their downtown. Another thing is the City of Tulsa has been working with (district planning and urban design firm) MKSK on our Arena District. They did Columbus’ work several years ago, so it was great to meet with them and see what they’ve done.
You have a job and a role in the Chamber that take a lot of time. Outside of the Chamber, are you involved with any other programs?
Most of the things I’ve been involved with civically, outside of the Chamber, have to do with education. That’s where my passion is. I’ve been involved with the Tulsa Community College Foundation, the Foundation for Tulsa Schools and Street School.
It goes back to trying to create opportunities for people. For me, that’s where economic development starts. If we can educate our young people and give them the skills that they need, that then transitions into better jobs and makes companies want to come to Tulsa and stay here. That’s how job growth happens. It’s a passion of mine. I’m one of those rare people who loved school as a kid, and now having daughters of my own, I understand how important it is through the lens of a parent.
Enough of the work talk. What do you and your family like to do in Tulsa in your free time?
For me, it’s really spending time with my family, and trying to be intentional with them. I have an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old. Our time together is what I like to do. That’s my hobby, whether it’s being at soccer practice or being in the middle of whatever they’re doing. Spending time at their school. Traveling together. We love to get away with just the four of us. Also I’m a runner. Running is my personal escape. It’s something I’d do more often if my knees would let me.