December 7, 2012
On Tuesday, December 4, 2012, the City Commission decided to retain the services of City Manger Eric Benson for another year. I was a bit confused by the nature of the article that appeared in the Enid News & Eagle as it painted Mr. Benson’s time here fairly negatively and it could have just as – if not much more – easily been done to highlight why he was rehired. The public often forms its opinion based on what it reads in the local paper and I believe the public has been done a great disservice when it comes to this subject.
It is no secret that I was a very vocal critic of Mr. Benson and some of his practices and ideas when he first came to Enid- mostly based on what I read in the paper – and I still stand by a few of those opinions, but I think it is imperative that the public take a moment to really take a look at what has happened in Enid since Mr. Benson’s tenure here. Regardless of whether you like his “style” or not, the successes that Enid has enjoyed cannot be denied.
I have stated before that we don’t always agree and I have often felt the need to qualify that – as if getting along with someone is a bad thing. However, I am no longer going to apologize for getting along with someone and for seeing someone for what they are. Make no mistake, I am my own person and am not a blind follower by any means, and he would even say the last person he would label a suck up would be me – he would probably rather I didn’t even say this, but I think it’s about time someone stood up for the right thing on this subject.
I would be willing to bet the vast majority of Enid is not aware that Mr. Benson was a candidate for City Manager of the Year this year in Oklahoma. The reasons, like the reasons we decided to retain him, are many and varied, but these are the reasons in my mind why:
Eric Benson is in his sixth year as Enid’s City Manager. Mr. Benson came to a city that had been hit hard by the oil bust of the 80’s and had been stagnant for a very long time. He was not content to see Enid in that state or to see it get bypassed by the rest of the world. He saw its potential and he nurtured it and other people began to follow suit. He kicked Enid into gear, so to speak, and it has recently experienced a momentum it hasn’t seen in thirty years. For the first time in recent memory, it became easier to work with City Hall instead of harder. People at City Hall stopped saying no and started saying yes. Ideas were brought to the table. People were encouraged to try things that had not been done before. Six years ago none of us could have imagined the Enid we have now.
Mr. Benson’s management skills have guided Enid to a great amount of success in a very short amount of time. A little more than six years ago, we had approximately $9,000,000 in our coffers. Four years later, we had $36,000,000. In the last few years we have replaced or repaired approximately a dozen bridges, are building a $25,000,000 events center, have automated the trash systems and the landfill, have built a new $35,000,000 waste water treatment facility, have begun a comprehensive master park plan, have built two splash pads and a dog park, have begun a trail system that will go through and around the entire city, and have redone the bridge and repaired the springs at Government Springs Park, which is one of the historic icons of our city. We have streets being fixed on a daily basis. Two new water towers will be completed in approximately a year. The Enid Regional Development Alliance and the Enid Convention & Visitor’s Bureau were created and the City of Enid implemented the Youth Job Corps Summer Program which employs Enid youth at City Hall in the summer, giving them an amazing opportunity to learn how the city operates.
Enid is on the verge of great retail development that will bring major retailers to northwest Oklahoma. The mall is in the process of going through enormous changes as well. A new grocery store has opened in an area that badly needed it and a new CVS is being built. None of these things would be possible without the aggressive dedication of Mr. Benson to make Enid a better and more prosperous community.
In addition, Enid has numerous entertainment opportunities – the Junior College World Series, live music every day of the week, First Fridays, as well as several festivals. Venues are continuously booked and events are plentiful in Enid – due in large part to the dedication to the quality of life for Enid citizens by the city management and merely by them making it easier for people to plan these kinds of events.
Aside from all of these accomplishments, Enid has achieved the status of one of the most fiscally sound cities in the State of Oklahoma for the last two years. Enid has a 3.6% unemployment rate and there’s been a 6.1% job growth in the last year. There are 33,561 people employed (1,944 more than just last year) – which is the highest employment number in Enid’s history. Our sales tax is up 14.94% over last year and our hotels are experiencing a nearly 100% occupancy rate on a regular basis.
Enid’s economic development people are responsible for the $450,000,000 wind farm coming to Garfield County, the canola plant that will bring a $3,000,000 payroll with it, the designation as a foreign trade zone, and many other exciting things that are happening. Enid has won several state and national awards. We recently won the award for the best website in the nation and Enid went from being one of the worst cities in the state for worker safety to winning the 2012 Award for Excellence for Safety.
This has all taken place in six short years, since Eric Benson became the City Manager of Enid.
Mr. Benson has not accomplished these things single handedly, nor would I purport that he had, but has certainly had a hand in all of them. His progressive and assertive leadership, determination, and ambition were the catalysts that got the wheels turning and opened the flood gates. His coordination and collaboration with area communities and civic/development groups, all around positive, realistic ideas and concepts for growth, excellent mentorship to young professionals, and encouraging actions and words are second to none.
Always available to answer questions and address concerns, Eric Benson is accessible to the community and encourages open communication. He is more than willing to spend time educating and assisting people in understanding how the city operates.
Eric Benson is a man of impeccable character and integrity. He is kind, compassionate, and fair. He is honest, trustworthy, and loyal. He has a job that is incredibly challenging and often thankless, yet he never backs down from a daunting task or issue, but instead meets it head on with steadfast resolve. He is quick to offer words of praise and instills confidence in those around him, yet always remains humble. His uncanny ability to remain diplomatic in the face of adversity is incomparable. He never loses sight of the big picture. He captains the community, full steam ahead, by doing the right thing, even though it may not always be the popular thing. He is an effective and admired leader and one that all future individuals in his position will be compared to. His tireless efforts and energy to move Enid forward are unmatched and he is more than deserving and qualified to be our City Manager.
Enid City Commissioner, Ward 5