Community Leaders for Improvement in Muskogee, OK

By John McBryde on June 22, 2013 at 5:00 am EST
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PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Conti

Led by a passionate mayor and other movers and shakers in the community, Muskogee residents are taking action as never before to make their city a better place to live.

Here's a look at three community leaders who are making a difference.

The Mayor

Bob Coburn was elected mayor of Muskogee in February 2012, but he has been an advocate for the city since re-establishing residence in his hometown back in 1983.

Some 30 years after his return, Coburn is seeing a citizenry that is enthusiastic about transforming Muskogee. He especially noticed it during a series of community meetings held in 2012 to create the Action in Muskogee (AIM) initiative. More than 350 people came to multiple meetings.

"I've never seen that kind of community involvement in the last 30 years I've been back, so there's an obvious desire for change among our citizenry," says Coburn, who is particularly passionate about the prospects for development here.

"There is an excitement about retail and restaurant development in Muskogee," he says. "We need to do things to create sales in our community, because the more successful we are in creating retail sales, the more successful we are in recruiting more restaurants."

The Coach

Lisa Wade Raash knows the numbers all too well when it comes to health and fitness in Muskogee. As founder and president of Empower Change, a consulting company that helps a variety of companies and organizations, she has her finger on the pulse of the community.

"Oklahoma typically ranks near the bottom as far as health indicators, and unfortunately Muskogee County ranks near the bottom in the state," Raash says. "We're working to raise awareness and bring opportunities for people to choose healthier lifestyles."

She points to a health and wellness initiative she is helping to steer and its three guiding principles - eating better, moving more and becoming tobacco-free. The city is adding more bike lanes and walking tracks, and residents can also take part in community gardens.

"We're encouraging people to be more active, and we're trying to improve access to healthier eating," Raash says.

The College President

The foundation for improving Muskogee as a whole comes through the AIM initiative, and heading that up is Dr. Tim Faltyn, president of Connors State College. He is optimistic that AIM is exactly what the city has been aiming for in the last several years.

Through a series of meetings, "we figured out what the priorities are in our community and what we want to accomplish and, ultimately, what we want to be known for," Faltyn says. "Out of that came eight initiatives."

Those are educational excellence, safe and secure community, strong economy, community pride, clean and beautiful community, great place to live and visit, health and wellness, and community infrastructure.

Similar efforts have been previously discussed, but nothing really got past the talking stage.

"It has been exciting," Faltyn says. "There are a lot of people involved, and they come from all walks of life."

The Nonprofit Leader

As executive director of the Nonprofit Resource Center, Kim Lynch leads a staff of dedicated individuals committed to making Muskogee a better place through a variety of initiatives.

Its mission is to provide services, training and resources to help nonprofits meet community needs.

According to the Resource Center's vision statement, "We envision a strong, cohesive nonprofit community composed of successful organizations that have the financial, professional and human resources to improve the community by successfully meeting their mission-driven goals."

Check out more on what it's like to live in Muskogee, OK.

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Sitting outside my office right now, I can see what looks like a grandpa and his grandkids, little ones, and they’re out here on the pier fishing. And to see that every day makes me feel like we have accomplished something important to Muskogee and to Oklahoma.

Scott Robinson, Port Director for the Port of Muskogee