Patrice Douglas is the mayor of Edmond, the fastest growing city in Oklahoma. She and her colleagues aggressively pursue rapid but smart, family-friendly expansion. And she loves her job, probably more than you love yours.
Oklahoma Magazine: Edmond’s motto is, “A great place to grow.” What does that mean to you?
Mayor Patrice Douglas: It means a great place for families to come and grow. It means a great place for businesses to grow. As a city, we want to help families grow as their kids grow up. We want their kids to come back here and stay, as well. I think that motto means business growth, family growth, park growth. And all of it is quality growth.
OM: Between 2000 and 2010, the number of households in Edmond grew by 5,000. What did Edmond do to make this happen?
PD: First, we made this a high-quality community that attracts people. They want to come here for the schools. They want to come here for the beautiful homes we have. They want to come here with their businesses. That was very planned.
We have kept a hometown feeling in this community. That came with planning and zoning and recruiting businesses. It came by realizing we had to invest in our park space, our trails and our remnant forest.
OM: Is this growth sustainable?
PD: I think it is. When it comes to land, we still have as much land on the east side of Edmond as we do on the west side. I-35 is an artificial barrier, and we have more than 40 undeveloped square miles on the other side of it. So when it comes to land, yes.
But Edmond’s growth is going to slow. It will take our economy a while to recover from the last couple of years. Will we continue to see growth? Absolutely. Will we see 15,000 to 20,000 people move in over the next five years? Probably not. But we will see more growth than most Oklahoma communities, and we are planning for it.
OM: What’s the biggest problem a growing city has?
PD: The hardest issue that we as a city deal with is the fact that a growing community has to continue to move. We must continue to improve ourselves. The question is how are we going to continue to do that? When we come up with great plans – and we’ve got a few on the table right now – how do we pay for them? I’m glad to be faced with that problem.
OM: Aesthetically, growth can hammer a city. How about Edmond?
PD: Clearly, 10 years from now we will be bigger. But we stay on the cutting edge when it comes to land development, park renovation, preservation of green space and so on. I think it’s critical in Edmond that we keep our historic downtown vibrant. You’ll see our university (University of Central Oklahoma) grow. Our schools will remain high quality and you’ll see a fourth high school in Edmond. You’ll see a lot of those pieces that we’ve put in place 10 years ago come together. And we’ll keep working on and refining them in the next decade
OM: For a person with so much on her plate, you don’t sound very stressed.
PD: I’m very excited to have people move here. I’ve got the best job in the world because I’m the mayor of the absolute coolest city in Oklahoma. I love it.