MUSTANG — Justin Battles, Mustang assistant city manager, is among a growing number of young professionals who have decided to live in this Canadian County town.
Fewer people are bigger Mustang advocates than Battles.
“Mustang has the big-town amenities with a small-town feel,” he said of the city of about 17,000 residents.
“You can get to a Thunder game in 30 minutes.”
Still, there are reminders that Mustang might be losing some of that small-town feel.
The roads get a bit more clogged these days, and more construction is seen, such as work on St. Anthony’s new 90,000-square-foot medical facility at State Highway 152 and Sara Road.
City sales tax revenues, thanks to more people and more businesses, have climbed steadily in the past five years. People from Tuttle and Yukon often shop in Mustang.
“Last year, we had 103 permits for new homes, and we’re expecting to double that this year,” Battles said.
At 34, Battles has seen Mustang grow, and he’s been a leader for some of that.
Originally from Ozark, Ark., he attended the University of Arkansas. His wife, Danae, is a native of Mustang.
He’s now worked in municipal government for 12 years, while raising three children.
In 2002, Mustang hired him as field coordinator with the parks department. The next year, he was promoted to sports coordinator.
Two years later, he was assistant parks department director, and he became director in 2006. In February 2013, the city council launched a search for a new city manager. Needing an interim leader, they tabbed Battles for the job. He ran the town including its 76 full-time and 75 part-time employees until August, when Timothy Rooney was lured away from a similar post in Wrangell, Alaska.
“Justin may be a bit modest, but he did a terrific job,” Rooney said.
He noted Battles’ value to his own success. On July 1, Battles was named assistant city manager.
“One management rule I follow is to surround yourself with people who are smarter, and I did that with Justin,” he said.
Vision for city
Battles is positive about Mustang’s future. He thinks the population will reach 20,000 — and maybe 30,000 — sometime in the next five years.
A lot of the people making Mustang home will be young professionals rearing families. They will be there for the small-town feel as well as the Mustang schools.
The city has played a role in creating a pleasant atmosphere for families. Battles said a lot of that can be traced to 1999 in a plan known as Vision 2000, led by former Mayor Ross Duckett and former City Manager Pat Long. Voters passed a 1 cent sales tax extension to help fund projects including a new police station, community center, aquatics center and athletic fields.
That community center is now known as the Town Center, with 66,000 square feet. Many events can be held there, including banquets, conferences, workshops, weddings and receptions. The complex is home to the Mustang Aquatic Center as well as the library.
“Mustang doesn’t have the traditional downtown city area, so this fills that role well,” Battles said. “It helps to give us the high quality of life people look for when they come here.”
New youth baseball fields opened this spring in the complex, although they are not 100 percent complete.
“We will have the concession areas ready in the fall,” Battles said.
The mission for Mustang’s city government in the next few years will be to address the growing pains, Battles said. That will include more infrastructure, including water lines and an upgrade to the Waste Water plant.
“My job is to deal with people and solve problems,” he said.
He doesn’t look at his job as a stepping stone to another leadership position in another city.
“I really like Mustang and plan to be here a long time,” he said.