By: Tom Fink | Category: Rogers County | Issue: June 2022
Ron Burrows, County Commissioner
What a difference a decade makes. Nearly eight years ago, Ron Burrows was among the residents of Rogers County who watched as the then-members of the Rogers County Commissioners found themselves embroiled in one controversy after another, appearing regularly – and unflatteringly - on the front page of the local paper.
Frustrated and determined to see change, Burrows set out to make a difference by running – and winning – a seat on the Rogers County Board of Commissioners.
“There was so much disruption in county government at the time – it was embarrassing, to say the least,” Burrows said. “You know, I grew up in corporate America, where you were held accountable for your performance. If you didn’t perform, you were fired, and I looked at the board and felt I could improve on that. I felt that the people of Rogers County deserved better and I wanted to raise the bar on the expectation of county government.”
Burrows won his bid for a seat on the county commissioners that year, and this summer, he hopes to continue the good work he started almost 8 years ago, as he seeks re-election for Rogers County Commissioner District 3.
“What an honor to receive this award on behalf of Rogers County today. The Star of the Southwest Award from the Southwest Region Economic Development Association to INCOG and Rogers County. Thank you INCOG for your partnership making our region such a desirable place for Economic Development,” as posted on Ron Burrows for Rogers County Commissioner Facebook page.
“I’m coming to the end of my second term, and seeking my third term,” Burrows said. “I feel like I’ve made a significant impact on my goals while in office, we’ve been able to do a lot, but there’s still more I’m wanting to accomplish – I don’t feel my job is done, and for that reason, I’m seeking re-election to allow me to continue to work for and listen to the people of Rogers County.” Burrows came into county government with a background in management and finance, having served as director of the Claremore Expo Center, and manager of Lowe’s and Kmart, overseeing hundreds of employees over the decades. Burrows also has experience in managing excavation and bridge projects that he did working his way through college and two years full time before starting a career in management.
“Having big business experience helped serve me well as county commissioner,” Burrows said. “Not to say that a small business person couldn’t do the job, but in the county, you’re talking about millions of dollars – millions of dollars just in the road crews alone, and in 2021, over $112 million went through the (Rogers County) courthouse – that was a record for us, which our board oversaw and ensured that everything went where it needed to go. It’s a job that has many, many moving parts.”
Just as critical to his job, Burrows said, is the ability to “agree to disagree” with the other elected officials.
“There are three members on the (county commissioners) board, and other elected officials, all of whom come from different backgrounds, have different opinions, and different needs and wants for their offices,” he said. “The other elected officials – the county clerk, assessor, treasurer, sheriff, court clerk and district attorney – each look out for their respective offices, but when it comes to our budget, as we say ‘the pie is only so big,’ and we have to stay within the framework of a balanced budget. Being able to negotiate through this, even if we might not agree on the final result, can be very challenging, but it’s crucial to maintaining a positive relationship with the elected officials - and indirectly, for all the people of the county.”
In addition, working to improve the relationship with the elected officials during the budget process, some of the other accomplishments with which Burrows looks back on with pride are negotiating a balanced budget and managing to give county employees salary increases, helping with employee retention, and working diligently toward economic development and growth.
“I’ve been involved in economic development and working to bring growth and new jobs to Rogers County,” he said. I have been able to get caught up on several projects leftover from the previous administration, while still managing to treat nearly 100 miles of county roads with some type of surface treatment over the last seven years.
“Additionally, I have invested in salt brine equipment and a routine that allows District 3 to treat miles of county roads several days before a snow or ice storm arrives,” he continued. “This type of road treatment is much more effective and at a fraction of the cost of previous methods. I also made a commitment to paying off inherited debt from leased equipment years ahead of schedule to save hundreds of thousands of dollars since I’ve been in office. We’ve completed nine major bridge projects along with more than 4,232 feet of culvert replacements, with the goal to make the roads as safe as possible.
“Lastly, I’ve implemented a pavement management system that evaluates the condition of every mile of road in District 3,” he said.
And yet, there’s more he wants to do.
“There are so many things still to be done – and I know that may sound like a cliché,” he said. “Just within District 3, I’ve got some huge projects that I’m working on, and some in cooperation with the Port of Catoosa and Port of Inola, and with Verdigris. Growth is coming and we want to ensure that it’s done correctly, that we don’t struggle with it as it happens, but we’re ready for it.”
“Our challenge is to encourage and manage that growth, not stop growth. If we don’t manage it, it will run over us.”
Although Burrows said he’s not at liberty to discuss many of the projects he’s looking forward to, he described them as “exciting” and hinted they could be “big” in tourism and job creation.
But Burrows said his almost two terms as a commissioner haven’t been without unforeseen challenges.
“COVID was very difficult for everyone, and managing the courthouse and the roads crews during that time was a day-by-day challenge, but we learned a lot and came through it stronger, I think,” he said. “Inflation has been a big challenge for us recently as well. We’ve had to be really specific on our projects, project costs, material costs, etc., but still, we’re blessed – that one cent (sales tax) that Rogers County has for its roads and bridges has been a godsend.”
Ultimately, Burrows said – if elected – his priorities will remain the same moving forward as they were when he was first elected into office: Ensuring fiscal responsibility of the county, economic development, public safety, and working on infrastructure projects for improving roads and bridges.
“It has been my honor to serve the people of my district and of Rogers County for almost eight years – two terms – now, and I would appreciate their vote to continue my work for the next four years.”
The vote for Rogers County commissioner will be held during the primary election Tuesday, June 28.
To email a question to Burrows or report a road within his district that needs attention, email him at eat1@eau1eav1eaw1.
Ron Burrows with family