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Skip Kelly and John Pettis Jr. face off in Tuesday’s city council race for Ward 7.

Tim Farley March 27th, 2013

John Pettis Jr. is optimistic about his quest to unseat Oklahoma City Ward 7 Councilman Ronald “Skip” Kelly.

Ronald "Skip" Kelly

Pettis and Kelly, the top two candidates to emerge from a crowded primary race early this month, will square off in Tuesday’s runoff election.

Kelly received 31 percent of the primary vote while Pettis garnered 26 percent. The remaining votes were shared by five other candidates, four of whom have endorsed Pettis.

Kelly, an attorney, said the six and a half years he’s represented the ward have been fruitful for residents. He said that more sidewalks have been constructed and streets widened during his tenure than any other time in Ward 7.

In addition, Kelly said he’s lobbying for the first wellness center, funded by MAPS 3, to be built in northeast OKC because the area “has the highest degree of health concerns.”

The incumbent also is pushing for a full aquatic center in the ward, a project that would be similar to Pelican Bay Aquatic Center in Edmond.

Kelly was elected to Ward 7 in 2007 to fill the two-year unexpired term left by Willa Johnson.

Pettis, meanwhile, was buoyed by the primary election results.

“For far too long, Ward 7 has been the forgotten ward in terms of economic development and jobs. Ward 7 still does not have a full-size grocery store,” he said.

“There’s a lack of retail development and $13 million in unmet [retail] needs. It’s time for a change.”

Pettis, director of the nonprofit Oklahoma Institute for Minority Affairs, shied away from questions surrounding Kelly’s legal problems. The councilman faces a felony charge of driving under the influence.

“The community is responsible for holding him accountable for those actions,” said Pettis. “I believe I can win without touching those issues.”

The DUI charge stems from Kelly’s Jan. 20, 2012, arrest by OKC police. Court records show he received deferred sentences on two previous DUI misdemeanor convictions. If convicted of the latest charge, city charter dictates that he would lose his council seat.

Kelly said the case has not created concern among his constituents.

John Pettis Jr.

“People who know me know I’m accountable, and no one has made this an issue,” he said.

Moreover, Kelly defends himself against his challenger’s claims of being unresponsive to residents.

“I make myself available to the citizens,” he said. “I didn’t come here with a personal agenda. I came here to serve, and that’s what I try to do.”

If Pettis wins the election, it could provide a degree of familial revenge. In 2007, Kelly almost was forced into a runoff by Pettis’ father, John A. Pettis Sr. The elder Pettis missed the runoff by a single vote.

Ward 7 extends as far north as 192nd and as far south as S.E. 44th Street. Its eastern boundary is Peebly Road, extending west to Western Avenue. The ward’s boundaries also touch or encircle several other suburbs, including Edmond, Jones and Spencer.


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