Contentious nomination sends Lee-Brinkman to CED board

The county's seat on a regional engineering board was filled on Monday, but not without tense discussion and one Carter County commissioner feeling cast aside for political reasons.

ARDMORE – The Carter County Commission on Monday appointed Commissioner Berry Lee-Brinkman to the Circuit Engineering District board to replace the District 6 seat once held by Jerry Alvord, who left his position as county commissioner last year for a seat in the Oklahoma Senate.

Statewide CED boards date back to the early 1990s primarily as a way to collectively use the resources of individual counties for larger road improvements within the district, according to the Oklahoma Cooperative Circuit Engineering Districts Board. Carter County is among nine counties in south-central Oklahoma that make up District 6.

Commissioner Bill Baker represented Carter County during monthly District 6 meetings beginning in October, according to publicly available minutes. On Monday, Carter County Commission Chair Joe David McReynolds nominated Lee-Brinkman to the CED board. Baker cast the lone “no” vote in Lee-Brinkman’s nomination and cited his own experience with the commission and CED board.

“For the last six years, I’ve been the number two man on that board. I’ve filled in in the absence of Mr. Alvord on many occasions,” Baker told fellow commissioners. “I really feel like this is a political thing as much as anything, but I feel like I deserve the opportunity to sit on that board. At least for a year,” Baker said.

Baker, who was elected to represent Carter County District 2 in 2016, also expressed frustration at Lee-Brinkman’s inexperience as a county commissioner. Lee-Brinkman won a special election and runoff last year and was sworn into office in early October 2022.

“I had to sit in the shadow of Jerry and I’ve had to sit in the shadow of Joe, and it ain’t right,” Baker said.

McReynolds, now in his second year as commission chair, said he faced a difficult decision when the other commissioners told him each was interested in serving on the CED board.

“I’ve been praying about it, talking to some of the other commissioners that sit on the CED board and some different individuals, and I just felt like it would be best for Carter County to appoint Berry to that board,” McReynolds said immediately after Monday’s meeting. He declined to elaborate further.

Lee-Brinkman said he is excited to represent the entire county on the District 6 CED board. “My hope is to continue the works that we have been doing. Just because one commissioner is on it — as you can tell, District 3 commissioner was on it before — all districts are represented at the CED,” Lee-Brinkman said on Monday afternoon.

The District 6 CED board is responsible for several road projects across Carter County. According to the district’s five-year plan, recent projects in Carter County include upgrading a low-water crossing along Longview Road, a bridge on Midway Road, and nearly five miles of upgrades for Newport Road.

“District 3 has Newport Road, it is one that has been a thorn in our side,” Lee-Brinkman said.

For FY2023, County Improvements for Roads and Bridges (CIRB) work plans include construction on Longview Road and Newport Road, along with addressing right-of-way and utilities for a low-water crossing between Springer and Gene Autry. Over $9 million in funds from the CIRB have been allocated for Carter County improvements between Fiscal Years 2020 and 2024.

“When you drive down a county road and you see a big concrete bridge…and you’re like ‘what is this highway bridge doing on a county road,’ that’s the type of projects that this pays for,” Baker said.

The District 6 CED board is scheduled to next meet on Jan. 19 at the Stephens County Fairgrounds in Duncan.

In other business, the Carter County Commission on Monday:

  • heard a presentation from the Indian Nations Council of Governments about the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, or C-PACE, financing program;
  • approved insurance deductible for Carter County Sheriff’s Department vehicle;
  • approved the 2023 safety incentive criteria;
  • approved District 1 and District 3 safety training meetings for 2023 from SouthernTech;
  • renewed Nearmap US quote for county mapping services;
  • accepted a $5,000 donation for the Carter County Sheriff’s Department;
  • approved monthly appropriations, county officer reports, requisitions and purchase orders.

This story has been updated to include late comments from Commissioner Berry Lee-Brinkman.

This story also appeared in the printed edition of The Ardmoreite on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023.