The resignation of Ann Simank marks the end of an era in city government, Oklahoma City Council members said. Simank, who resigned this week, is the third council member to leave office in a little more than a year. All three had at least 13 years on the job and were part of the council during the Oklahoma City bombing and the early days of the MAPS projects, which many consider a crucial period that led to growth the city now enjoys. "They were there when the corner was turned,” Ward 4 Councilman Pete White said. "It may well be a changing of the guard.” Simank's resignation took effect Friday morning. Willa Johnson resigned the Ward 7 seat last year after being elected an Oklahoma County commissioner. She was first elected to the council in 1993. Jerry Foshee left the council in April after deciding not to run for another term so he could run for the state Senate. Foshee, who lost his state Senate bid, served 14 years on the council. "I think those three did kind of represent the end of an era in what was an extremely good run for Oklahoma City,” Mayor Mick Cornett said.
‘Big-picture, inclusive attitude'Ward 1 Councilman Gary Marrs said Simank, Johnson and Foshee helped transform the council from a group that often bickered and thought only in terms of their own districts to a group that considered what was best for the city as a whole. "It's not bad to think in terms of your ward, but you also want the ability to see how it affects the whole city,” Marrs said, "They were part of this big-picture, inclusive attitude.” White served on the council from 1982-1989. After leaving to pursue other interests, he won a seat on the council again in 2005. He said personal attacks and north vs. south rivalries were common among council members during his first tenure. White said Simank, Johnson and Foshee were part of a change in attitude in the early 1990s, led by then-Mayor Ron Norick, that helped MAPS become a success, led to MAPS for Kids and established an unprecedented level of trust between Oklahoma City residents and city government. Cornett said keeping the council away from petty bickering should be an expectation of whoever is chosen to fill Simank's seat. "There aren't any guarantees that harmony will prevail,” Cornett said. "There is turnover on the council. Things could change, and I think we need to be protective of it. I don't think we should take it for granted.”
What's next?An election to fill the remaining two years on Simank's term is expected Nov. 4, with a runoff Dec. 9, if necessary.
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett hugs former Councilwoman Ann Simank during her resignation speech Tuesday in Oklahoma City. By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman