Third Ward Election Preview: Christi Gillespie
This is one of a series of Q&A articles for each Broken Arrow City Council candidate brought to you by the Broken Arrow Sentinel.
In the contest for Broken Arrow’s Third Ward seat, City Council incumbent Christi Gillespie, faces former councilor Mike Lester.
Gillespie defeated Lester in 2019 by a wide margin. She’s been outspoken in her love for the U.S. Constitution and conservative governance, and active in pushing for redevelopment of New Orleans Square and south Broken Arrow in general.
The city’s municipal election is Tuesday, April 4. All Broken Arrow residents vote for candidates in each ward and the at-large seat as well.
Family: Husband Michael; daughter, Madison; grandsons, Coby and Kain
Education: B.S. in communications, with emphasis in public relations & advertising, Oklahoma Christian University.
Occupation: Resigned Feb. 1 as director of sales and training for a company, taking a few months and then pursuing another sales position after the election.
Broken Arrow Firefighter Assn.
OK2A – Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Assn.
U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern
Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell
Oklahoma State Senator Nathan Dahm
Oklahoma State Senator Joe Newhouse
Oklahoma State Senator Dana Prieto
Oklahoma State Representative Stan May
Oklahoma State Representative Ross Ford
Oklahoma State Representative Mark Tedford
Oklahoma State Representative Kevin McDugle
Oklahoma State Representative T.J. Marti
Oklahoma State Representative Jeff Boatman
Oklahoma State Representative Mike Osburn
Broken Arrow Mayor Debra Wimpee
Jenks Mayor Cory Box
Glenpool Mayor Joyce Calvert
Jenks City Councilor Kaye Lynn
Broken Arrow City Councilor Lisa Ford
Broken Arrow School Board John Cockrell
Broken Arrow School Board Debbie Taylor
Tulsa School Board E’Lena Ashley
Tulsa County GOP Chair Ronda Vuillemont-Smith
OKHPR “A” rating – Oklahomans for Health & Parental Rights
Q: What motivated you to seek re-election for city council? What have you done over the last 4 years that shows you’re qualified to be a city councilor?
Gillespie: Four years ago, I ran on my passion for revitalizing south Broken Arrow, specifically the 101st
Street/Elm Place intersection that had been ignored by the former City Council. Today I’m still motivated to continue the revitalization in south Broken Arrow, but also to continue my leadership in becoming more deliberate in our housing and zoning standards in the city. Other issues I’m passionate about are connectivity for all and transportation for our seniors and disabled.
Q: What would be your 3 biggest priorities for Broken Arrow if you are re-elected?
Gillespie: First is public Safety, utilizing my relationships to work with legislators to ensure public safety districts can be implemented in our city. This will ensure funding for public safety can remain at the expected level of service. Second is revitalization of south Broken Arrow, including the Aspen Ridge buildout, promoting interest for high tech/medical device jobs (or similar) in the Innovation District; development of Elam Park and more. Third is addressing stormwater issues across our city.
Q: How should the city address the challenges it has with fire and police departments with the lack of resources, manpower shortages and continued population growth?
Gillespie: To continue public safety at the standard we have become accustomed, we must ensure we have adequate funding moving forward. One way this is possible is a mechanism already approved by our Oklahoma legislature. The issue is there are some legal questions surrounding this initiative. I will utilize my relationships to work with legislators to ensure public safety districts can be implemented in our city.
Q: Would you support funding emergency services through property tax revenue (referred to as public safety district) instead of sales tax revenue as is currently done?
Gillespie: Public safety districts wouldn’t replace the sales tax revenue currently used. We need both to ensure funding in the years to come.
Q: Is development of Broken Arrow happening in the best interests of residents as a whole? What should be tweaked or changed, if anything, about how the city is regulating and planning for growth? Do you feel residents have enough say in what happens?
Gillespie: Recently I made a request for a housing study that was approved by the City Council. The study will help us to make more educated and deliberate decisions in our housing approvals. I am also on the advisory committee currently working on zoning updates for our city. This hasn’t been done in possibly decades. In recent years our transparency in city government has improved for the better. Since elected I have held quarterly meet-and-greets that are open to the public. I also publish my cell phone on our city website page and my personal City Council Facebook page. Residents can reach out to me anytime via phone call, email, text or Facebook.
Q: Infrastructure (water, sewer, roads, etc.) is another pressing issue for Broken Arrow. How would you prioritize the infrastructure needs the city has and potentially fund them?
Gillespie: Much of the infrastructure in our city wasn’t adequately addressed in the previous decades. In all transparency we will need tens of millions of dollars (if not hundreds of millions) to get everything up to date. And of course, infrastructure will always be an issue that needs to be addressed. It doesn’t end in a growing, vibrant community. Prior to the 2018 GO Bond, many named projects on previous bonds had not been funded because of poor planning. Prior to becoming a City Councilor, I served on the Build a Better Broken Arrow committee promoting the 2018 GO Bond. The way our current bond was written, all projects are not “named.” This foresight by our current City Manager has given us greater flexibility with ongoing materials price increases. Thankfully our sales tax revenue has been record-breaking since 2020 and we’ve been able to not only begin or complete our bond projects but complete some from 15-plus years ago.
Q: Do you feel the city is utilizing TIF districts properly? Are there too many, or not enough?
Gillespie: This is something we have done right. We’ve used them to attract high-paying jobs and keep high-paying jobs. In addition, the growth seen has benefitted the entire community. In 2019 I spoke in favor of a TIF being considered for the 101st Street/Elm Place area (now New Orleans Square). I’m still in favor of this to help with making this district even better than ever before. There are different forms of TIFs and we have a good mix in our city.
Q: Nearly all age demographics in Broken Arrow have increased in recent years except young adults. What can the city do to keep more young professionals here?
Gillespie: We absolutely must ensure Northeastern State University -BA becomes a true 4-year university. I’ve worked on this for over 15 years and will continue to advocate at the legislative level for this important initiative. Young people leave our city every year to attend a 4-year university. Many don’t return until their 30s.
Q: Census figures show Broken Arrow is becoming more diverse, with the Hispanic community is growing the fastest. What should be done, if anything, to ensure there is adequate outreach to minority populations in BA so they can have an appropriate voice in governance?
Gillespie: The Youth City Council is a natural place where we can reach out to young people from all backgrounds, mentoring them as young adults.
Internship partnerships between the city, Broken Arrow Chamber, Broken Arrow Public Schools, Northeastern State University, Tulsa Community College, Tulsa Tech and local businesses are also important.
Q: The City Council and Muscogee Creek National Council met last year to talk about unity in the community, and they have partnered on some projects. How do you feel the city’s relationship with MCN should be handled in the future, and where would you like to see more collaboration or communication?
Gillespie: We have a future meeting in planning as we speak and I believe we should hold consistent partnership meetings with all members of our community who have a vested interest in our success. We are not only building “relationships” but actual friendships with the MCN, as well as all tribes. My husband is Peoria and my grandsons are Cherokee, so this is of upmost importance to me.