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Stillwater's First News with Bill Van Ness

Conversation opened. 1 read message. FROM THE CITY OF STILLWATER:FROM THE-------------------------FROM THE CITY OF STILLWATER:
-----------------------FROM THE CITY OF STILLWATER:
FROM OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY:FROM Oklahoma State University President Kayse Shrum and First Cowboy Darren Shrum have been named grand marshals of OSU’s 2022 Homecoming festivities by the OSU Alumni Association.FROM OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSFROMM

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Bice, an Oklahoma State University alumna, returned to her alma mater as the spring 2024 commencement speaker to impart wisdom and encourage graduates Saturday in Gallagher-Iba Arena.  

OSU played a pivotal role in the fourth-generation Oklahoman's life as it’s where she earned a Bachelor of Science in marketing in 1995, where she met her husband, Geoffrey, and where her daughters chose to attend college.  

Bice took this opportunity to share with more than 3,900 undergraduate students how two small words that make one simple question — "Why not?" — profoundly impacted her personal and professional life.  

The university’s 148th commencement speakers consisted of OSU President Kayse Shrum; OSU Provost Jeanette Mendez; Bice; Dr. Brandt Gardner, OSU faculty chair; Joe Hall, OSU A&M Board of Regents chair; and Ashley Peterson, Student Government Association president.  

Bice’s father insisted she attend college to open doors of opportunity. Likewise, Bice knew her ultimate goal was to receive a college degree, so she enrolled at OSU. At the end of her sophomore year, Bice was told her father couldn’t pay for college anymore, prompting her to ask, “Why not?” Determined to finish what she started, Bice returned to OSU for her junior year.  

Bice began her public service career in 2014 when she was elected to the Oklahoma State Senate.   Prior to that, she had never thought of running for public office, but when she saw Oklahoma ranked No. 49 in the number of female legislators, Bice knew that statistic had to change.  

Saturday morning’s exercises recognized students from the Ferguson College of Agriculture and the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology. The afternoon consisted of ceremonies for the Spears School of Business, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education and Human Sciences, and the College of Professional Studies.

Graduate students and the College of Veterinary Medicine had their ceremonies Friday. OSUIT had its ceremony on April 19. OSU-Tulsa will hold its commencement ceremony on Monday and OSU-Oklahoma City held its graduation Friday.

The OSU Center for Health Sciences will have its ceremonies at 5 p.m., May 16, at the Mabee Center on the campus of Oral Roberts University.

All commencement ceremony videos can be found on Inside OSU.


Melisa Kifer, Executive Director of Special Services for Stillwater Public Schools, has been named the 2024 Director of the Year by the Oklahoma Directors of Special Services  

Kifer was recommended for the honor  by Alison Taylor.  Taylor is a first-year director-mentee of Kifer's and a former Stillwater special education teacher.

The organization considered several accolades in their selection of Kifer for the honor. Under her extensive planning and guidance, SPS recently completed a five-year transition to digital special education and Section 504 records.  Recognizing the importance of identifying additional funding sources for her department, she implemented a Medicaid billing system for speech/language therapy for the 2023-24 school year, with plans to add physical and occupational therapy next year.  Kifer has also been instrumental in refreshing the Stillwater Pioneer Pathfinders, a transition program for students with special needs ages 18 to 22.  

Stillwater’s first-year Director of Special Services and Behavior Analyst Austin Hula says,  “When we are attending conferences or ODSS meetings, I will often hear, ‘you’re lucky you are working with one of the best in the state, and I could not agree more.”  

“I am honored and humbled to be named the Director of the Year,” says Kifer. “ODSS is an amazing organization that is comprised of individuals who have dedicated their lives to special services for children. SPS is a fantastic district providing the highest opportunity for all children. Our special services teachers and staff are the best in the state, and that is why I love coming to work every day.”

Kifer will officially receive her award at the CCOSA Summer Leadership Conference in June.  

Superintendent Uwe Gordon describes Kifer as “the kind of creative, progressive, divergent thinker we all hope will work with our children.  Her ability to lead students and faculty and give them practical application never ceases to amaze me.”


Simmons Bank has made a $1.5 million donation to support Block 34 for development of a large, open-air covered pavilion in the event space.

The financial institution has a long history of serving Oklahomans with continuous efforts to develop and advance Stillwater.

“Simmons Bank is excited for the opportunity to be a part of the transformation of downtown Stillwater through Block 34,” said Kevin Fowler, regional community president for Simmons Bank. “This development will serve as a destination for cultural, educational and social gatherings.”

The bank location at the corner of 6th Avenue and Main Street is currently under construction with an expansion project. Fowler included this was also an investment into the downtown area.

Stillwater City Council ceremoniously accepted the donation during the meeting on Monday, April 1, with Mayor Joyce acknowledging his appreciation of the commitment made by Simmons Bank and their continued support, sharing that they are a huge anchor in our downtown area and whole community of Stillwater.

The Simmons Bank Pavilion and entire Block 34 project is under construction and is expected to be complete and open to the community in late summer 2025.

Scott Petty, Vice President at Simmons Bank, thanked Deputy City Manager Brady Moore and City Attorney Kimberly Carnley for their hard work throughout the process. He included, “it’s great to be a partner with Kicker and the Steve Irby family in this community investment project.”

Kicker and the Irby family have contributed approximately $8 million for development with $800,000 for future operational expenses.

Upon completion, Block 34 will include lush landscaping, art and walkways, shaded areas with tables and seating, play areas for children, a splash pad, space for food trucks and Farmer’s Market vendors, the Kicker Sound Stage and Simmons Bank Pavilion. For more information, go to


Glenna Craig, Payne County Clerk is pleased to announce that her office is now offering a FREE property fraud alert notification system to the public through her website at no cost to the citizens of Payne County together with EDOC Technologies.  Craig stated that this is something that she has been working on for the past few months.  Craig recently attended a national conference in Charleston S.C. where property fraud and cyber security were the key topics discussed.

This monitoring system will send an email or text message alert to you if a document, such as a deed or lien, is recorded with your name or business name as it appears in title. You must register for a FREE account to be able to receive monitoring.

While Payne County has not had an issue to date with property fraud, Craig stated that “According to the FBI, property and mortgage fraud is the fastest growing crime in America.  It is as simple as someone recording a fraudulent document against your property, making it appear as though they own it.” said Craig. “Then they obtain a mortgage or deed against the property and the rightful owner does not usually find out until they receive a notice of foreclosure or someone sales the property.

Craig stated “The Payne County Clerk’s office reviews each document presented for filing to make sure that it meets all statutory requirements to be filed. This new alert system is a way to help property owners prevent becoming the victim of property fraud. This gives the property owners an early warning of property fraud being committed, and an opportunity to take action to prevent further fraud.” Craig said,

“There are many programs out there that are similar, but they all charge a monthly fee.”  “We are providing this service at no cost to the public for anyone who wants to participate.” Typically, the most vulnerable for this type of crime are those with high equity and no mortgage, and those who own properties which they do not personally occupy, such as rental homes, vacation homes or investment properties.

If you suspect you are a victim of fraud, contact your local law enforcement office. You may also need to contact an attorney to determine whether you need to take legal action to undo the fraudulent recording.


Stillwater Electric Utility earned the Diamond status, the highest possible award ranking, from American Public Power Association’s Safety Award of Excellence for safe operating practices in 2023, with 110,000-249,999 worker-hours of annual worker exposure. They also received the Reliable Public Power Provider (RP3)® Diamond member designation for providing reliable and safe electric service.

More than 160 utilities entered the annual Safety Awards for 2023. Entrants were placed in categories according to their number of worker-hours and ranked based on the most incident-free records and overall state of their safety programs and culture during 2023. The incidence rate is based on the number of work-related reportable injuries or illnesses and the number of worker-hours during 2023, as defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

“Stillwater Electric Utility is proud of its safety record,” Loren Smith, Electric Utility Director of Stillwater Electric Utility said. “This Diamond status award is a testament to the hard work that goes into ensuring that our team members go home safe to their families every day.”

The Safety Awards have been held annually for more than 65 years.

“In our industry, safety has to be top of mind all day every day,” said Scott McKenzie, Chair of APPA’s Engineering and Operations Conference safety track and Senior Director of Member Training & Safety at AMP Inc. “These honored utilities have demonstrated a commitment to safety that runs through every aspect of their organizations.”

The RP3 designation, which lasts for three years, recognizes public power utilities that demonstrate proficiency in four key disciplines: reliability, safety, workforce development, and system improvement.

Criteria include sound business practices and a utility-wide commitment to safe and reliable delivery of electricity. Stillwater Electric Utility joins more than 250 public power utilities nationwide that hold the RP3 designation.

Stillwater Electric Utility is one of two municipal utilities to hold the Diamond member ranking in Oklahoma, the highest possible ranking for members.

“Receiving an RP3 designation is a great honor signifying a utility has demonstrated commitment to industry best practices,” said Jeremy Ash, Chair of APPA’s RP3 Review Panel and Chief Operating Officer at Kansas City Board of Public Utilities, Kansas. "And ultimately, the culture developed from this pursuit of excellence and continued improvement through the RP3 program results in measurable value delivered to the local community.”

“We couldn’t be prouder to be honored with the Diamond member designation,” said Loren Smith, Electric Utility Director of Stillwater Electric Utility. “This is the culmination of a lot of work from a lot of people who really care about powering our community. But this designation is not a final destination. We are committed to continuing to look for ways to improve our operations and service to our customers.”


Stillwater Tax Apportionment Report, April 2024

The collection is based off of February transactions that were reported to the Oklahoma Tax Commission in March and apportioned to the City in April.

    April 2023 GENERAL SALES TAX COLLECTION: $1,596,297
    INCREASE FROM PREVIOUS YEAR: $49,548 (3.10%)

    INCREASE FROM PREVIOUS YEAR: $24,774 (3.10%)

    April 2023 SUA SALES TAX COLLECTION: $798,148
    INCREASE FROM PREVIOUS YEAR: $24,774 (3.10%)

    April 2023 USE TAX COLLECTION: $385,961
    INCREASE FROM PREVIOUS YEAR: $25,614 (6.64%)

    April 2023 VISITOR TAX COLLECTION: $95,680
    DECREASE FROM PREVIOUS YEAR: $2,879 (-3.01%)

Go to the City’s Financial Center for more information about the budget and taxes and monthly reports for sales, use and visitor tax:

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