Holt on diversity
Mayor David Holt says Oklahoma City’s success depends on bringing diverse perspectives to municipal decision-making.
Holt, 40, was the youngest mayor of any American city with more than 500,000 residents when he took office a year ago.
Among those under 18 in the city he now leads, 60 percent are nonwhite, he says: “That is the future of Oklahoma City.”
Social media posts document his passion for reaching into every corner of the city and connecting with every community.
Followers of @davidfholt know he attended the Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championships with his daughter, joined his son for Cub Scout activities at the zoo, received a Shadow and Act Award from the Ralph Ellison Foundation, and attended with Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund’s Red Tie Night gala with his wife.
And that was just one weekend.
In bestowing the Shadow and Act Award on the same night civil rights activist Clara Luper’s family was honored, the Ellison Foundation hailed Holt’s commitment to policies and the politics of inclusion.
“With his ‘one OKC’ vision of city unity for the future and his insistence on representing neglected voices in city government, we’ve never seen the ideals of inclusion and diversity featured so prominently within City Hall,” the foundation said.
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A product of Putnam City Public Schools, Holt is sensitive to the fact that he is from the north side, as were his 35 predecessors.
In his campaign, he was forthright about divisions within the city and upbeat about prospects for "setting aside the things that divide us and fighting for the common good."
Holt described his vision on a visit to Capitol Hill, amid Hispanic neighborhoods teeming with energy but lagging the revitalization going on downtown.
“I think the next mayor,” he said, “can really bridge the divides of our city.”
The Latino community, the African-American community, millennials — “all the groups that haven't really taken a seat at the leadership table in the past — need to be a part of the process,” he said.
“And I think the next mayor can accomplish that,” he said, “and it starts by spending time in places like Capitol Hill.”
At his State of the City speech, Holt introduced Jessica Martinez-Brooks, who was named last year to the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust.
Martinez-Brooks is the first woman and first person of color to fill an independent seat since the board assumed its current configuration in 1990 (besides two independent trustees and the city manager, the board includes the mayor and a council member, both elected).
“I view the disconnect between our decision-making and our population as an issue we must confront,” Holt said.
Oklahoma City, he said, is a cosmopolitan metropolis, home to a growing Latino community and a longtime Vietnamese community.
With its lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) community, indigenous communities and others, Holt said, “there is hardly a religious or international tradition that isn’t practiced” in the city.
“Through understanding of that,” he said, “we’ll find continued empathy for each other, we’ll continue to set aside the things that divide and work towards a common purpose.”