Executive Q&A: Oklahoma Municipal League director understands perseverance

Executive Q&A: Carolyn Stager triples as executive director of the Oklahoma Municipal League, author and jewelry company co-founder.
by Paula Burkes Published: December 29, 2013
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On the brink of the new year, Carolyn Stager, executive director of the Oklahoma Municipal League, is most looking forward to House Bill 1875.

The state Legislature measure calls for slashing the administrative fees that cities pay the state Tax Commission to collect sales taxes from 1 percent to 0.5 percent.

The effort is a long time coming, said Stager, who met with a committee every third Friday for three years, and found that municipalities indeed were overpaying for the service.

“The bill,” an excited Stager said, “is postured to pop out early this legislative session.”

Stager has headed the municipal league for the past five years, and is its first female director. The league turned 100 years old this year, and Stager has worked there for 25 of those years.

The organization, which employs 14, provides advocacy and training to 450 member cities and towns across the state.

From her offices at 201 NE 23, Stager sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about her professional and personal life. This is an edited transcript:

Q. Tell us about your upbringing.

A. I'm a native of Midwest City, where I graduated from Carl Albert High School. My father, who died in his 40s, worked as an electrical engineer at Tinker. My mom, who lived to age 79, worked in the school cafeteria and at Tinker some. Legally deaf, she had no hearing in one ear and only 50 percent in the other. When we needed her, we'd bang on the walls because she could feel the vibrations — and also read lips. I'm the middle child of three. I have a brother a few years older and sister, five years younger.

Q. What was your first job?

A. At the Dairy Queen in Del City. I was 13. Later, I worked at Dick's Drive-In in Midwest City. I remember there I could have anything I wanted for free — from a chili cheese burger to curly fries. I married at 19, and went to school at night to complete the paralegal program at Rose State College.

Q. How did you come to join the Oklahoma Municipal League?

A. I was working for an attorney, who had offices in the same building. OML was hiring and one of the candidates didn't show for their appointment. I told the then director — the late Don Rider — I might be interested and, the next thing I knew, I was in a panel interview. I joined in 1987 as assistant director of governmental relations and soon after was promoted to director of intergovernmental relations, or lead lobbyist, and later, became chief operating officer. I was named executive director in 2008, after serving a year as interim executive director.


by Paula Burkes
Reporter
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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PERSONALLY SPEAKING

Position: Oklahoma Municipal League, executive director

Website: www.oml.org

Birthplace and birth date: Wewoka, Nov. 21, 1953. She celebrated her most recent birthday in New York City

Family: banker Bill Strecker, whom she married on 10/10/10; daughter Christi Duren, son Nathan Stager and three grandchildren, ages 4 to 13

Education: University of Central Oklahoma, bachelor's and master's in political science/urban affairs

Residence: northwest Oklahoma City

Home church: Crossings Community Church

Sideline passions/enterprises: “Twist of Faith: A Tornado Survivor's Spiritual Journey to Recovery” by Carolyn Stager and Kimberly Lohman Suiters, which was released by Tate Publishing on the 10-year anniversary of the May 3, 1999, tornado and Stick It in Stones Inc. (www.stickitinstones.com), Stager and partner Cheryl Willie's 15-year-old, Oklahoma City company provides state seal and logo lapel pins, cuff links and assorted jewelry to 15 states, tribes, universities and other organizations

Professional contributions: She serves as ambassador for her Leadership Oklahoma Class XIII, and recently completed two-year terms on the boards of the Oklahoma State Chamber and the National League of Cities.

On the bed stand: “Big League City: Oklahoma City's Rise to the NBA” by David Holt

Routines: She exercises daily on a home treadmill

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