MUSKOGEE — John Tyler Hammons may have already performed his grandest feat as mayor, even before taking office. He put Muskogee in the national spotlight. Hammons, 19, beat his 70-year-old opponent in a runoff election Tuesday, getting nearly 70 percent of the vote. Hammons, who just completed his first year at the University of Oklahoma, spent Wednesday fielding questions from national news networks and producers of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” "Everybody has the same question,” said Hammons, who will be a delegate to the Republican National Convention in the fall. "‘Why would you do this at 19?' I think they're fair questions. A lot of people are asking if I think I can do this. Of course I think I can do this, or I wouldn't have run. The voters think I can do this. It's amazing what some people think you don't know.” Even though he hasn't taken office yet, Hammons was sitting in the mayor's office Wednesday, getting used to the feel of leading the city of about 40,000 people, 50 miles southeast of Tulsa.
Open and transparentHe's polished, stays on message and isn't fazed by tough questions about the future of Muskogee or pending labor talks with the firefighters union. Hammons defeated former Mayor Hershel McBride in Tuesday's runoff. McBride complimented Hammons on running a clean race, and said he intends to continue volunteering in the community. "I told him he could call if he ever has any questions, since I used to be mayor,” McBride said. The firefighters union, which has been at odds with city government over wages, backed Hammons. Doctors at the Muskogee Regional Medical Center were some of Hammons' top campaign donors. For Hammons, open and transparent government is a priority. "People that voted for me wanted change,” said Hammons. "We want to handle the people's business, and we are being open about it. One of the first orders of business is to establish an independent ethics committee and establish campaign finance laws.” Pretty lofty for someone who doesn't have a credit card and isn't old enough to drink. For some voters, Hammons provides a breath of fresh air at city hall. "We really truly needed a change in Muskogee,” said Billye Lackey, who supported Hammons's campaign. "We need new ideas. I don't know this young man. I don't think I know his family; I was just impressed with him.” Lackey said Hammons' positive outlook and enthusiasm for Muskogee's future was infectious.
Muskogee's mayor-elect, John Tyler Hammons, is shown Wednesday outside the Muskogee Municipal Building. He's bringing national attention to the city. BY NATE BILLINGS, THE OKLAHOMAN
What's next?•John Tyler Hammons will be sworn in as Muskogee's mayor on Monday. •His first city council meeting is Tuesday. •Hammons, a political science major, said he plans to transfer from the University of Oklahoma to the Muskogee branch campus of Northeastern Oklahoma State University. •"It's a little overwhelming, but I think once the media attention dies down we can get to doing the people's work,” Hammons said. "There is a lot of bad blood throughout the city, but I think by me winning by a large margin we can start to accomplish things.”