"I think the current mayor and city council don’t seem to be on the same page,” James said. "We need a group of people on council and mayor to work together, pulling on the same rope and having the same vision for Muskogee.” Coburn issued a similar criticism. "I think our city council and mayor are heading in about nine different directions and I think there’s an opportunity for some leadership and experience that I’ve had,” he said. "We need to be looking at jobs and opportunity and not fussing about whether the charter is worded right.” All three challengers think more focus should be paid to the economy. "When they were talking about changing our charter ... I didn’t see any reason for change, especially with the economy being the way it is,” Garris said. The local newspaper, the Muskogee Phoenix, has thrown their support behind Coburn: "While the city and council continue to face big issues regarding economic development, a budget shortfall and city beautification, Hammons has not focused on these issues. Instead, he has pushed getting Muskogee a sister city and revising the entire Charter when only a partial revision is in order.” Hammons defends his record, saying it has been a priority to fund development since he took office. "In this election cycle I was the first person to call for permanent funding for economic development through our city use tax and then at all of our mayoral debates since then every candidate has jumped on,” he said. "I’m glad they see the merit to the idea. When I’m re-elected I hope to have their support and make sure that happens.” And if he’s not re-elected? Hammons said he will always keep an eye on politics. That’s a good thing, according to his opponents. "John Tyler (Hammons) is a very intelligent young man and more than likely will have an interesting political career ahead of him,” Coburn said. "He’s very energetic. He’ll do well.” Hammons stepped into the spotlight two years ago, and for that the other candidates thanked him. "That’s a remarkable thing that a man of that age, a young man would be willing to step up to the plate and do this,” Chris James said. "Whoever comes out on this deal, I think Muskogee will be stronger for it.”
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John "Bob” Coburn, 58Job: Owner of tuxedo rental shop, mini-storage business, property management. Family: Wife, 2 children, 4 grandchildren. Priorities: Job creation through retail, tourism and industrial development.
Teresa Carol Garris, 61Job: Volunteer. Family: 3 sons, 1 daughter. Priorities: Creating jobs, tourism and bringing business back to downtown.
John Tyler Hammons, 21Job: Incumbent mayor, economics major at University of Oklahoma — Tulsa. Family: Parents, 1 brother. Priorities: Addressing poverty by bringing in better jobs, funding economic development and workforce training.
Chris James, 49Job: Librarian at Muskogee County Law Library, travel consultant. Family: Mother, 2 brothers. Priorities: Business retention and expansion, community beautification and downtown revitalization.