The Duncan Banner

March 23, 2014

2nd Ward vote reveals split between councilman and business leaders

Steve Olafson
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — The election for the 2nd Ward council seat in Duncan is no humdrum affair this year.

 A list of campaign contributions shows some of the city’s leading business leaders want a new face on the council.

Incumbent Mike Nelson, a 59-year-old Duncan native who’s practiced dentistry in his hometown his entire career, is seeking a second three-year term on the council.

But it’s Nelson’s younger opponent who has drawn hefty campaign contributions from some of the city’s business elite.

Neither Nelson nor challenger Bill Schneekloth report receiving any campaign contributions, but Christopher Schreckengost, a 42-year-old district manager for the Enterprise rental car company, reports $3,900 in contributions and 2,989 in expeditures.

He has used the money on billboards, yard signs and printing. Nelson and Schneekloth, a 70-year-old retired industrial plant manager, are waging more modest campaigns with their own money, based on their campaign finance reports. Nelson has spent $514 on advertising and printing while Schneekloth has spent $2,126, their reports state.

Schreckengost’s largest contributor is Greg Shepherd, the newly named chairman of the Duncan Area Economic Development Foundation (DAEDF), who contributed $500.

Shepherd said Schreckengost’s entrepreneurial background makes him the best candidate “to get this thing turned around,” referring to Duncan’s economic fortunes. Shepherd said he is not necessarily dissatisfied with Nelson, adding that Schreckengost is a personal friend with whom he socializes.

Others who have given Schreckengost $250 conributions are former DAEDF chairman Ben Herrington,  current DAEDF board members Rick Braught and Jay Johnson and DAEDF President Lyle Roggow, according to campaign contribution filings.

Also contributing $250 check to Schrekengost are Greg Cook, chief operating officer of CMC Marine Inc., in Duncan, Eric Cook, vice president of general operations for CMC Marine, Inc., and Dr. Ryan Scott, board member of Duncan Regional Hospital, according to the candidate’s campaign filings.

 Some have suggested that Schreckengost’s support by some sectors of the business community stems from a decision by the City Council not to renew the city’s contract with DAEDF more than a year before the pact expires.

DAEDF’s relationship with the city is based on a services contract it has with the Duncan Economic Development Trust Authority, an Oklahoma public trust whose board members consist of the city’s elected council members.

The contract between DAEDF and the city trust will expire July 31, 2015.

Shepherd and former DAEDF chairman Herrington said the council’s decision not to renew the contract early has no bearing on their support of Schreckengost, whom both men say is a personal friend.

The idea of renewing the contract between the city and DAEDF earlier than necessary was brought up by City Manager Jim Frieda, not DAEDF, according to Shepherd.

“It was thrown out there for discussion,” said Shepherd. “It didn’t go anywhere, which is fine.”

Herrington said the idea that DAEDF wants Nelson defeated because the orgazation’s contract with the city was not renewed early “is just silly.”

“There’s no heartburn over the renewal,” he said.

Herrington said he simply thinks Schreckengost “has got a better business sense” than Nelson.

Nelson, a 59-year-old dentist and native of Duncan,  declined comment on the business leaders’ open support of his 42-year-old opponent, but his colleague on the council, Ritchie Dennington, who’s unopposed for re-election for his 1st Ward seat, is puzzled by the sudden financial show of support for the challenger.

 “I’ve never seen this kind of push,” said Dennington. “I don’t understand why suddenly so many people put so much money into it.”

The 70-year-old Schneekloth, meanwhile, said he declined to accept money from contributors.

“When I’m elected, I don’t want to owe anybody anything,” he said.

 The three candidates will appear from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday in City Council Chambers at a forum sponsored by the Duncan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.