Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

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June 18, 2014

Helping others is Mann’s reward

bporterfield@pvdemocrat.com — Helping the residents of his district and finishing the things he’s started are big a part of why Johnny Mann is seeking yet another term as a Garvin County commissioner.

First elected in 1990, Mann is hoping to earn his seventh term as the District 3 commissioner during the June 24 primary election.

Mann is set to go against challenger Mike DeArman of Paoli in the summer vote.

“It’s rewarding,” Mann said about his work as a commissioner, which he adds is a 24-hour, seven-day a week job.

“You get to help people. That’s the most rewarding part of my job. That’s what I like the most about my job.

“Another main reason I want to keep going is to continue the projects I have in the works.”

When Mann was first elected to the office he was approached about running by the previous commissioner, Mandy Burnett, someone Mann has known his entire life.

Mann initially worked with Burnett during programs in the summer. After spending some time in the oil field he worked as a road hand for Burnett before serving for a couple of years as his road foreman.

Burnett saw Mann as his possible successor when he decided to retire.

This month’s election is now only the third time Mann has faced an opponent during a run for a new term.

He gives plenty of credit for the long run to the “support and friendships” he’s made in the county over the years, along with his District 3 staff.

“I’ve been fortunate and blessed to have had the employees who’ve worked for me over the past 24 years,” Mann said.

“They try to do the job right the first time. They’ve always treated people with the highest regard and respect.

“We try to do for everybody what we can. Every foreman who has ever worked for me has had the same instructions — I don’t care who walks through that door, if we can help them we will, if we can’t do it for them we’ll try to find someone who can.”

Like any other job Mann says time and experience has provided him with the lessons needed to be a better and more effective commissioner.

“It’s taken some time but you get that confidence and are assured of what to do in any situation,” he said.

“I know how to solve problems because I’ve been through them. It takes years to learn the business as a commissioner — what you can do and what you can’t do, who you can help and who you can’t help.”

One of those big lessons is the always important skill of how to deal with the money and ways to stretch it as a way of getting more done with less.

Mann stresses that’s a big deal when tackling the thing commissioners are best known for — maintaining county roads.

He adds the county receives money for road maintenance from a 1 cent fuel tax.

“In all the years I’ve been county commissioner a lot of things have changed,” he said.

“The increases in the cost of bridge and road materials has gone way up, while the money available for county government has not.

“We’ve seen no increases in funding but the cost of materials has gone up.”

That means less money to maintain the hundreds of county roads and dozens of bridges in District 3.

An example comes with the cost of road oil.

In the past it cost $10,000 to $15,000 to chip and seal the surface for a mile of road. Now that cost is upwards of $40,000.

“I’ve learned how to chase down state and federal money through other sources,” Mann said.

“You’ve got to chase the money. That’s the whole deal about our jobs. Our jobs are being aware of all these programs and where all the state and federal money can be found.”

Typically that means grants, which are less plentiful than in past years.

Adding to the situation is county roads these days are forced to deal with larger industrial trucks, something the roads are not designed for as they deteriorate even faster.

Those roads are made even more difficult to maintain with the bone-chilling winters and desert like summer heat.

As for the accomplishments while in office, Mann looks to the work of the county commissioners to bring the Walmart Distribution Center to Garvin County and specifically Pauls Valley.

Another big one is the voters’ approval of a half cent county sales tax back in 2007 and its successful renewal earlier this year.

Revenue from the tax has supported the sheriff’s office, the county 911 center and the ongoing maintenance of the county courthouse building.

“When the general public thinks about the commissioners they see us as the ones who take care of the roads and bridges,” Mann said.

“They don’t realize we’re the governing board of the whole county. We deal with the total budget and the problems of the county.

“When the buck stops it stops here.”

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