Our Q&As shed some light on the personal lives of the two Tulsans vying for the Mayor’s Office in 2014.
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When Tulsa voters go to the polls on Nov. 12 to elect a mayor, they’ll find two candidates on the ballot with great name recognition, a long list of qualifications and impressive experience. On-the-job experience. On-this-job experience. The victor will be either a current or former titleholder, so the learning curve will be an easy arc.
The contest is officially nonpartisan, but the party leanings of the contenders are two of the worst-kept secrets in local politics.
Beyond their red and blue differences on issues, they have different management styles, different life experiences and different personalities.
Voters may be interested to know more about them as individuals. As people. As Tulsa people.
Incumbent mayor 2009-present
What does it take to be mayor?
“It takes a willingness to work hard and be a visionary,” Bartlett says, before adding patience, focus and the ability to make decisions quickly to the list of must-haves. “Literally, I can go from one subject to another — equally important but unrelated — in a minute.”
And what about the rewards of the job?
Among them are, he says, “the satisfaction of helping to set policy that enables positive economic events and creates better outlooks that affect us all.”
What did you do on your first day as mayor?
The morning of his first day in office, Bartlett was greeted at City Hall with a chorus of “Hey, Mayor” shouts. That lasted until 11 a.m., when the financial officer informed him of the city’s desperate economic conditions.
“We would have run out of money by April,” he explains.
Today, he says, Tulsa is running efficiently, “back within our means.”
What would you do on your second first day as mayor?
“Economic development is the most important thing. It’s one of the main reasons I ran for mayor,” Bartlett says.
“Hope is missing in some parts of our community, especially with young people,” he continues, citing employment, income, education and other options. He wants the next Bartlett term to “provide hope with real expectations.”
Do you have a secret passion?
“I’m a very good photographer,” he says. He began by taking pictures of friends, then the mountain towns, people and buildings around Denver and other parts of Colorado. Bartlett’s photos have been shown in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Bartlesville, and he’d like to see them in a book.
About 15 years ago, he and a friend spent a year photographing modern-day Osage County against a backdrop of history. On 100 rolls of film, the duo captured the final season of the Fairfax Red Devils football team, documenting players and coaches.
What do you do to de-stress?
“Mayor is a full-time job, seven days a week,” Bartlett says. Still, he and his wife of five years, Victoria, find time to dine at their favorite Tulsa restaurants — Dalesandro’s, Bodean’s, El Rio Verde. And on any Sunday night, they might be found on seats at the bar at Kilkenny’s, “watching whatever game is on TV.”
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Bartlett has played harmonica for 30 years. Occasionally, he’s asked to sit in with a band or play with his son.
“No one expects the mayor to play harmonica,” he jokes.
During Juneteenth this year, Bartlett performed with Wayman Tisdale’s band at Guthrie Green.
“There was a huge crowd — several thousand people — and it went pretty well,” he says proudly.
What would you like people to know about your parents?
“I’ve been very fortunate in my life. I had two great parents who were great examples and gave me a lot of opportunities,” Bartlett says.
He calls his mother, Ann, who lived to age 92, “a terrific lady — smart and kind with a wry sense of humor.” She died earlier this year. Of his father, Dewey Sr., who served as Oklahoma governor and U.S. senator, he says, “We were just becoming friends when he died (in 1979).”
Let’s talk family.
With his son and two daughters, Bartlett has the relationship he wanted to have with his father.
“We’re all a family,” he says. Two grandchildren — one boy, one girl — are the newest members of this blended troupe.
“It happened just this year, (the two were born) within a few months of each other,” the new grandfather says. “It’s interesting and lots of fun to spend time with a child of a child.
“Although our children were older whenever we married, we’ve still had a large impact on their lives,” Barlett says. “Victoria’s oldest daughter, Andrea, gave me permission to marry her mother, and I adopted (Victoria’s) youngest daughter, Ann, who spent hours with me as a child working on the pecan farm where she now lives in a house she and her husband built themselves.
“Last but not least is my son, Dewey Bartlett III, who I consider my greatest accomplishment. I’ve tried to instill in him all the values my father taught me — hard work, treat people fair and always be grateful. Victoria and I couldn’t be more proud of our children.
“We still have a great relationship with our children and have watched them blossom into wonderful young adults. My family means the world to me, and I know for a fact I would not be mayor if I didn’t have all the full support of my family members.”
How do you balance it all?
Bartlett took the question to mean keeping up with the business of his family’s oil company, Keener Oil, and the politics of City Hall.
“Surround yourself with good people,” was the short answer. “I have good teams in both places,” he says.
What haven’t you been asked about?
“I love reading about people’s accomplishments and how things work,” Bartlett says.
Because he wanted to invent or make something, he considered studying engineering or chemistry. He was so impressed by the story of the Wright brothers, he got his pilot’s license at age 18. It helped that his father was a pilot in World War II and flew his own plane as he campaigned around the state.
Favorite sport to watch
- Whether it’s watching (Mike) Gundy getting the pistols firing or the Golden Hurricane’s revitalized ground game or yelling out “Boomer” and waiting for the “Sooner” response, I love college football.
Guests at my fantasy dinner party
- Winston Churchill for lessons in how to protect democracy
- A.I. Levorsen, petroleum geologist, for lessons in where to drill for oil
- Richard Nixon for lessons in international diplomacy
- Ken Burns, documentary filmmaker, for lessons in relevant U.S. history
- My mother, Ann Bartlett, for lessons in humility, grace and wit
- My father, Dewey Bartlett Sr., for lessons in setting goals
- My wife, Victoria Bartlett, for lessons in commitment
3 things you don’t know about me:
- 1. I have a passion for photography and I am pretty good at it.
- 2. I have a license to fly helicopters.
- 3. Before oil and politics, I spent several years getting my hands dirty on a cattle ranch bailing hay, building fences and taking care of the cattle.
3 things that make me proud to be a Tulsan
- 1. It’s my home. I grew up in Tulsa and I can even remember when 31st was the southern border of the city.
- 2. I am proud of Tulsa for its philanthropic community. It started when Tulsa was the oil capital of the world and now has grown to be something to truly be proud of.
- 3. I am most proud and most honored that Tulsa would elect me as mayor. It is by far the best job I’ve ever had.
- Wolfgang Peterson’s WWII thriller “Das Boot”
Last book I read
- “Forty-Seventh Star” by David Holtby
For my last meal I would request
- Any meal I can grill on my Hasty-Bake with my growing family.
- J.J.’s Burgers
My favorite coffee
- Café Cubana’s Americano coffee, and I take it black.
Who’s on my playlist
- Sonny Terry
- Eric Clapton
- Etta James
- Jethro Tull
Favorite sport to play
Favorite Tulsa icon
- My father
3 things I can’t get through the day without:
- 1. My morning coffee with my best friend and wife, Victoria.
- 2. My excellent staff down at City Hall. I couldn’t ask for a better team around me.
- 3. Cracking a few jokes and having a good laugh. We deal with a lot of serious issues at the city, so it is important to always add in a bit of humor.
What was your job in college and how did it impact your career?
Bartlett’s interest in the oil business was sparked during his two years at a refinery on the west side of the river.
“It taught me the advantage of hard work and working in an industry by not necessarily being in an office,” he says. “I learned to appreciate the guy who operates the backhoe, runs the diesel engine and is up to his waist in mud.”