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Election Preview: Race for Midwest City’s Ward 3 is a crowd

Bailey, Bowen, Maxwell, Melton, Moore and Swartz seeking open seat

Midwest City council election set for Tuesday, Feb. 13

By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon

AJ BAILEY

AJ Bailey

AJ Bailey says there’s lots to like about his hometown.

But he believes it can be better. And that’s why he’s running for city council.

The Ward 3 candidate would like to see more options for residents to live, work and enjoy themselves.

He wants to see more affordable single-family homes and not necessarily more apartments.

“We’re losing young people to other cities like Moore, Norman, Choctaw and Yukon because we don’t have the housing,” he said. “We need to build more houses that can better accommodate growing families with more amenities, services and parks.”

More employment opportunities outside of the service sector are also needed.

“I know we’re getting a lot of business coming here but most don’t have large employment possibilities,” he said. “A lot of the service sector businesses don’t pay well enough for people to live and work here.”

Bailey said he would like to reduce the amount of vacant commercial space in Midwest City. He said new commercial spaces will be built near other older buildings that remain vacant, pointing to the intersection of E. Reno Ave. and Douglas Blvd. as an example.

“I think we could get more public input on what’s being built,” he said.

Another small but important item on Bailey’s list is upgrading bus stops and making them more accessible. Bus stops vary in size. Some have a small shelter and bench, and others are simply a metal pole and sign. And some stops do not have paved sidewalks, which makes them difficult for people with mobility issues to reach.

“I think small things like that can make the city a better place and be more accommodating and more inviting for people to come live here,” he said.

Not everyone sees Midwest City in a positive light.

“People who do not live here get this preconception that it’s a terrible place and I really hate that because I do think Midwest City is a great place,” Bailey said. “There are some things that I think we can do better, but we need to put our best foot forward so other people can see that too.”

Bailey said that could mean anything from revamping Air Depot Blvd. to adding more trees and green space.

“I know the city has a commission to upgrade Air Depot and that’s a good start,” he said. “The city needs to be more forthcoming about what they’re doing with the mall.”

Bailey was born at Tinker AFB and his family moved around a lot with the military. He lived in Midwest City full time since 1995 and graduated from Carl Albert High School. He went to Rose State and UCO for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

He married his high school sweetheart in 2009.

Bailey has run for the State House of Representatives and Ward 3 in the past.

Following the 2022 campaign, he was appointed by former councilmember Megan Bain to serve on the Midwest City Tree Board and Parkland Review Commission. The Tree Board advises residents about the public tree giveaway program, while the Parkland Review Commission determines if developers meet regulations regarding trees.

Bailey admits it would take any newcomer time to adjust to serving in public office. He says his experience working with city staff through the committees as well as his education make him well prepared.

“I have foundational knowledge of what the city does and how it operates,” he said. “And serving on the Tree Board, I’ve worked with city staff, especially public works, and gained valuable experience about how the city works.”

ESPANIOLA BOWEN

Espaniola Bowen

A previous election loss hurt.

But Espaniola Bowen is excited about the opportunity to win back the Ward 3 seat on the Midwest City City Council.

“I want to continue working in the community that I love,” she said. “I want to continue working with the neighborhoods. I want to work with the council moving Midwest City forward, and to be able to do some revitalization in the area where we live in Ward 3.”

The former councilwoman is one of six candidates running in the open race for Ward 3. The winner will serve the remaining two years of the term. Megan Bain won the seat in 2022 but resigned last year. AJ Bailey, Rita Maxwell, Raymond Melton, Jeff Moore and Janice Swartz are also candidates.

Bowen says she would like to see more commercial development, more affordable housing, and beautification efforts in Ward 3.

“We have a lot of vacant buildings in Ward 3, and I’d love to see those revitalized,” she said.

Bowen also wants the city to work with developers and contractors to prevent flooding issues. The east side of Ward 3 is also included in the city’s moratorium on development due to capacity issues with the sewer system.

“I have nothing against builders, but I want them to be accountable and stand behind by what they’re building,” she said.

Bowen was born in Crockett, Texas and her family moved back to Oklahoma in 1963. She lived in Midwest City for much of her adult life and moved to her current home in Ward 3 in 1990. She has two children. One of her daughters serves in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. Her other daughter died of breast cancer in 2016.

She has worked for the State Health Department for more than 27 years and currently serves as director of health resources development service.

Bowen won the Ward 3 seat in 2018 and lost reelection in 2022.

In addition to her time on the council, Bowen has been active in the community for many years. She has been president of the Omni Neighborhood Association and serves on the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District and Unity and Diversity Committee on Race Relations.

Bowen said the city council has experienced some controversy in recent years and promises to bring civility and experience to city hall.

“I have had four years on the council and my previous experience on the citizens advisory board. I’m very well versed on what’s happening and what to expect on the council,” Bowen said. “That’s why I think I’m the person for the job.”

RITA MAXWELL

Rita Maxwell

 

The thought of serving on the Midwest City City Council didn’t immediately appeal to Rita Maxwell.

Some prayer and thought changed her mind.

“My first reaction was I’m not doing that,” Maxwell said. “People talked to me about it more. I thought about it and prayed about it. I thought about what it entails and am I willing to do the work.”
Maxwell has enjoyed serving the public throughout her career and wants to continue to do so in her hometown. She has been a homeowner in Midwest City since 1972 and led a counseling office for the past 23 years.

“I’ve never run for public office before, but I want to be part of the city and give back,” she said.

Maxwell hit the ground running — or walking meeting with residents in Ward 3. Just a few weeks ago, Maxwell said she was making her second pass through the district.

“Walking has become my obsession,” she said. “I feel like I need to walk and knock on doors, so I don’t let people down. I love meeting people and knock on wood, no one has been mean to me.”
Maxwell promises to be an advocate for residents and communicate their concerns with city officials.

“I think the city is doing a good job, I really do. But also know we can always improve,” she said. “I want to be that bridge and be able to communicate with people who have questions and frustrations.”

Maxwell recently retired after a career that included service in the U.S. Air Force, department of corrections and counseling services.
She most recently worked as executive director of Wholistic Life Systems, Inc., which offered drug and alcohol counseling and batterer’s intervention program. The agency operated for more than 23 years with offices in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Midwest City.

She earned an associate degree from Rose State (then Oscar Rose Junior College) and bachelor’s degree from Langston University and started her career with the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau. She also worked as a member of the Pasadena (California) Police Department, Federal Bureau of Prisons as a correctional officer, and as an Oklahoma State Probation and Parole officer.

Maxwell was the first Black woman in many of her positions including as deputy warden of the Oklahoma State maximum security prison. She has been a warden in three facilities in two different states.
Maxwell also earned a master’s in human resources at East Central University in Ada.

She has also served as an auditor for the American Correctional Association and has performed audits at all levels of corrections institutions across the country.

She is an Air Force veteran and is the president of the Oklahoma Democrat Veteran Foundation and serves on the Oklahoma Retiree Association Board.

“I’m a late bloomer. I got married, had children, then joined the military,” she said.
She has four adult children.

RAYMOND MELTON

Raymond Melton

Raymond Melton has spent much of his adult life serving residents of Oklahoma City.

Now he’s looking to do the same in Midwest City. Melton is running for City Council Ward 3.

“I would like to just give back to the community,” he said. “I don’t have an outside agenda. I don’t have to do this, but I really enjoy working for the people of the community.”
Melton has lived in Midwest City for 33 years.

He and his wife Stephanie have three children and five grandchildren. She worked in Mid-Del Schools for 30 years teaching at Country Estates and Highland Park. His daughter currently teaches at Country Estates.

His family have been members of First Baptist Church of Midwest City for 26 years. He has served as a deacon for 23 years.

Melton recently retired from the City of Oklahoma City where he worked for 29 years in the public works department. During that time, he served 25 years in code enforcement, as well as superintendent for stormwater quality, and superintendent for streets, traffic, and drainage.

His experience includes code enforcement, EPA management, communications, and management systems.

“I think that would be a great qualification,” he said.

Melton started working with Oklahoma City when voters passed MAPS and enjoyed seeing the projects develop. He was pleased when Midwest City took a large initiative with redevelopment of SE 29th St. and Town Center Plaza.

During his career, Melton has also regularly worked with Midwest City leaders and staff.

Melton has thought about running for office for some time but couldn’t do so while working for Oklahoma City.

Former Ward 3 councilwoman Megan Bain has endorsed Melton.

This is Melton’s first run for public office and he’s learning a lot in the process. Some of the top issues that Melton has heard about include the Heritage Park Mall, stormwater drainage and the city’s moratorium on development on the east side due to sewer capacity issues.

“I’m just here to serve our residents the best I can, and I think have the experience to do pretty good at it,” Melton said.

JEFF MOORE

Jeff Moore

 

Jeff Moore is ready to return to the Midwest City City Council.

The former city council member and developer is running for Ward 3 after a four-year absence from the council.

Moore says he’s frustrated by city officials, especially in their handling of development and business issues.

“I’m retired and I have business experience and I want to see the city make better business decisions,” he said. “I am strictly here 100% for the residents and the business owners of Midwest City.”

Moore believes the city is too involved in business development.

“If we take care of our residents and our business owners, then our city will grow naturally how it’s supposed to,” he said. “In my opinion the city has gotten really big and greedy. And they’re running off businesses and residents, especially upper income people who can afford to move out. And I’m here to help the city grow businesswise and help it be more self-sufficient.”

Moore applauded the city’s development of Town Center Plaza and the Sooner Rose shopping centers but wants the city to encourage commercial development in other parts of the city.

“I think Town Center overall was a wonderful thing and the Sooner Rose development was a good thing, but where are they going to stop and realize they have a pretty good boost and base and help the entire city grow,” he said. “And make businesspeople feel welcome to come here.”

Moore served two terms on the council as the Ward 6 councilmember. He did not seek reelection in 2020 due to frustration with his lack of influence on the council and the passing of his mother.

“My mom was really sick, and I had some things going on with me health wise and I was fed up and frustrated,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I was making any headway. I would talk to everyone on the council, and they’d looked me like I’m just a developer and everything’s a conflict of interest.”

Moore says the city has been unwilling to work with him on recent developments. He disagrees with changes to the city’s policy on lot splits for residential development as well as moratorium on development on the east side due to sewer system capacity issues.

“Why would they push out a hometown guy who has done nothing but good things,” he said. “I can speak for those who can’t speak, for those that aren’t in a position that they don’t want their lives wrecked, for those that don’t want their businesses ruined and don’t want code enforcement on them.”

Moore grew up in Midwest City and graduated from Carl Albert High School. He built his first house in 1983. He developed several housing additions in the area including Hickory Forest, Forest Glen, Lexington Heights, Jaycie Place, Tuscany, Windmill Farm, Stonegate, Quail Hollow, the westside of Somerset Farms among others.

Moore was elected to Ward 6 city council in 2012. He said at the time he was living in another house that he owned which was located in Ward 6. He later moved to his current home which is in Ward 3.

“Once I got elected, someone raised a question and they had a hearing and I won,” Moore said.

JANICE SWARTZ

Janice Swartz

 

As a retired teacher, Janice Swartz was used to helping others and making a difference. She missed that feeling and wanted to get involved in her community.

“I just always want to have a part in making a difference,” she said. “I’m a very down to Earth, real person and I don’t put on a front for others. If me being there is good for the city, then I want to do it.”

The longtime Midwest City resident is running for Ward 3 city council. She’s one of six candidates running for an unexpired two-year term in office. The large field includes former councilmembers

Espaniola Bowen and Jeff Moore, Rita Maxwell, AJ Bailey and Raymond Melton.

“I’ve never been one to sit back if you see an opportunity then take advantage of it,” Swartz said. “I didn’t know there’d be six people running.”

Swartz said she’s a logical thinker and cooperative individual who could help reach compromise.

“I’ve always been able to cooperate and make things work,” she said.

Swartz believes one of the biggest issues is apathy among residents. She said she encourages people to get involved and vote to enact change.

“If you want to have an effect in what’s going on then you need to be involved,” she said.

Swartz has lived in Midwest City nearly her entire life. She went to Star-Spencer High School and Central State University (now UCO). She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

She was an educator for 28 years, working primarily with Oklahoma City Public Schools as well as four years with Mid-Del Schools at Highland Park Elementary.
In addition to her work in the classroom, Swartz worked for Oklahoma Department of Education in the summers to train teachers to receive national certification. She also worked as a private tutor.

In 2015, she retired to care for her mother.

Swartz is active in New Community Church. She serves as the treasurer and as a member of the pastor advisory board.

She and her husband have three adult children. They spend a lot of time with their grandchildren.

“When you retire from teaching, you’re used to being very, very busy,” she said. “And for the first few years you think you’re going to travel and do all this stuff. With eleven grandkids I don’t have much time to travel.”

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