By Sarah Neese
February 7, 2023

The race for Edmond mayor

Edmond Business interviews both mayoral candidates for the April 2023 election.
Incumbent Mayor Darrell Davis, left, and Brian Shellem, right, are facing off in Edmond's mayoral election April 4. (Photo: Brent Fuchs)

As the election for Edmond mayor nears, Edmond Business interviewed incumbent Mayor Darrell Davis and his opponent, Brian Shellem, ahead of the April 4 vote. 

Q: What will you do to support businesses in Edmond?

Darrell Davis: I want to continue creating an environment where businesses can thrive. Businesses are looking to move to communities with good schools, low crime, and solid infrastructure. Edmond is on the right track, but we must continue the progress and meet the needs of a changing economy. I also will continue working closely with the Edmond Chamber and Edmond Economic Development Authority.

Brian Shellem: I wholeheartedly support businesses of all sizes. I will create avenues of support to help open the restrictions our businesses face every day. We need to build an efficient process and streamline access to services our city provides.  I will limit government overreach, which has restricted our businesses. 

Q: What are your business development goals for your term, if (re)elected?

Davis: Having a skilled workforce is central to economic development. I have and will continue to work closely with Edmond Public Schools, the University of Central Oklahoma, and the vo-techs to help grow necessary talent for current and emerging businesses. 

We will continue investing in infrastructure enhancements to meet current and future needs; looking for opportunities to use our allocated American Rescue Plan Act funds in a timely and resourceful manner; and working with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and County Commissioners on road improvements for I-35, Historic Route 66, and U.S. Highway 77. Finally, I will actively look to identify businesses/investors that could take advantage of Edmond’s opportunity zones.

Shellem: As mayor, I am committed to improving public safety and quality of life. Edmond’s traffic crisis needs immediate action and is a top concern for our citizens. A comprehensive traffic plan must be developed and implemented immediately.  Unmanaged traffic flow restricts commerce and creates less exposure for businesses. We need to increase the velocity of commerce in Edmond. I want Edmond to develop long-term partnerships with businesses so we can further develop our infrastructure.

Q: What are your main priorities for economic development in Edmond?

Davis, left, and Shellem, right, both tout goals for Edmond’s future business growth as part of their respective platforms. (Photo: Brent Fuchs)

Davis: I want to improve our economy by promoting the expansion of existing businesses and recruiting new businesses through the use of job creation incentives.

For example, Edmond is currently engaging with the Urban Land Institute in its Advisory Services Program, for assistance in improving the planning and utilization of our current land resources. 

I will also look for current and future Edmond businesses having access to economic opportunities while working with the Edmond Chamber and Edmond Economic Development Authority. I also believe it’s important to look for community development opportunities by the utilization of our tax increment financing district, which will help facilitate redevelopment projects.

Shellem: Public safety, placemaking, and a positive quality of life will create opportunities for economic development. I will establish long-term goals to provide the necessary plans for Edmond’s growth.  

As Edmond’s next mayor, I will make Edmond the premier destination of Oklahoma.  I will lead the way in business locations for placemaking to ensure this happens.  With the assets we have, as well as our community and business environments, we are in a prime position for not only expanded business development but business success. Standing on the shoulders of our great city’s assets—plus coupling the resources of our university and career techs—Edmond’s opportunities are endless. 

Q: What business experience do you bring to the role?

Davis: First, I have been involved with the growth of Edmond since 1995, when I became involved with city issues. Over the past 25 years, I have served on various boards and committees, such as Tomorrow’s Edmond, Transportation Committee, Park and Recreation Board, and Leadership Edmond Class XIV. I started serving on the city council in 2011 and was elected mayor in 2021.

My next level of business experience comes from 35 years of contracting/acquisition experience working for the United States Air Force. During this tenure, I worked in achieving business goals by crafting, evaluating, negotiating, and executing a wide variety of different contracts and transactions. I am skilled at creating and maintaining relationships between contractors and the city of Edmond. As mayor, I will continue to be an effective steward of our tax dollars.

Shellem: Thirty-one years of experience in the equipment distribution service industry. I have been a small business owner for well over 20 years. I have a bachelor’s degree in finance. My cash flow management experience—combined with payroll—and employee retainment is an essential skill set needed to be mayor.  I understand the struggles and complexity small businesses face every day. It’s business leaders like myself who have the ability to recognize a concern and, in turn, create it into an opportunity. 

Q: What do you see as the future of businesses in Edmond?

Davis: Edmond is a vibrant, growing community with amazing residents. Edmond is doing well! This is why we are seeing the expansion of our downtown and even residential construction coming to the downtown area.  With the attraction of people, the future Edmond will have the opportunity to attract businesses. Current and new residents will have the opportunity for a high quality of life for themselves and their families, quality jobs, and multiple tourism-type attractions.

Shellem: Edmond is at a crossroads, and we’ve got important decisions to make. It’s not when we grow; it’s how we grow. We are very fortunate to have both a ready environment for families and businesses.

I want us to encourage and welcome new businesses, and at the same time, I don’t want us to do anything that favors one business over another. Oftentimes, providing incentives to attract new business interferes negatively on existing businesses.  I don’t want to see Edmond playing favorites to particular businesses. In a level playing field, free market enterprise works. 

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About Sarah Neese

A lifelong Oklahoma native, I've spent the majority of my life and career nurturing my love for all things words. In constant pursuit of wordsmith mastery, I have an ongoing drive to read, write and edit whenever possible.

My right-hand ladies are troubleshooting and critical thinking, as the world around us requires problem-solving at every turn.

Outside the office, you can catch me brushing up on my Spanish, exploring what the culinary arts have to offer and keeping up with pop culture at large.