PIEDMONT — A Piedmont city councilman faces a recall election Tuesday after he drew the ire of local residents by meeting with a wind energy company that has shown interest in erecting giant turbines near the fast-growing town.
Councilman Vernon Woods is facing two others Tuesday — Bobby Williamson and Donovan Rubley — after a local group collected the required number of signatures and submitted a petition to the Piedmont City Council demanding a recall election.
Pam Suttles, a local resident leading the charge to hold the recall election, said many local residents became upset with Woods after he continued to meet with representatives of Apex Wind Energy Inc. after city officials decided not to allow the massive turbines to be erected within Piedmont city limits.
“He's not representing the citizens in his ward and he's not returning phone calls to some of them,” Suttles said. “We didn't have trouble collecting the signatures.”
Woods said the recall election has little to do with the planned wind farm and more to do with “political games the likes of which Piedmont has never seen.”
“This ain't about windmills,” Woods said. “I've made some enemies since I got elected. ... I guess you could say I ask the wrong questions.”
Woods did not deny that he continued to meet with Apex Wind Energy, which is planning a massive wind farm in northern Canadian and southern Kingfisher counties, even after a group of Piedmont residents expressed strong opposition to the idea.
“I was talking with Apex, but it wasn't a secret,” the councilman said. “I was talking to Apex about building them in northeast Piedmont, where nobody lives. That was it.”
Woods claimed that some residents of the rural section of Piedmont actually were interested in having the turbines on their property.
Suttles said wind turbines, which can reach heights of 500 feet, are not regulated by the state of Oklahoma “until they've been up for 15 years.”
She also said they lower property values and can be a potential safety hazard when tornadoes strike.
“They usually put them in areas where nobody lives,” Suttles said. “Canadian County is the fastest-growing county in Oklahoma ... why do they want to put them here?”
Woods said Suttles and other Piedmont residents are demanding the recall election because of a “personality issue with me,” not because of the wind farm development.
“They are just using this ... windmill thing to come after me,” he said. “It's really not about that all.”
Woods, who won re-election last year after grabbing nearly 70 percent of the vote, said he is the third Piedmont council member to be recalled in the last two or so years.