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State of the Community: Anticipated growth in and around Tahlequah

Community and political leaders gathered at Go Ye Village Thursday, Feb. 29 to reflect on the year during the State of the Community event.

The Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the event, and those from the public were able to hear from local leaders.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. was the first speaker and he called Tahlequah a special place for those who live here and those who come here.

“There’s newness to this community and there’s great history to this community,” he said. “They see the progress, they see the optimism, they see the potential, and they see people in this community who care about the town. Then you go over to the end of town, and you see the headquarters of great Indian Nation.”

Hoskin added that the community is poised for growth and CN invests over $19 million dollars a year to send tribal members to college.

“A large number of them call this community home and a big number of them call Northeastern State University a place where they want to get their degree from and then they stay here long enough, they want to live here,” he said.

Hoskin touched on the housing crisis and explained how CN has almost wrapped up a new housing addition that includes 24 new houses on 23 acres of land in Tahlequah.

“These are quality homes. People are going to be proud living in these homes and they’re affordable homes,” he said.

CN has invested time and resources to bring a drug treatment facility to Tahlequah. Hoskin said they still have a lot of work to do.

“We’re expanding behavioral health right now. We’re taking the money we extracted from the opioid industry when we took them to court and said, ‘You injured this Nation. You injured the reservation.’ We’re making them pay for every penny of about $76 million in future capital investment in drug treatment,” Hoskin said.

Tahlequah Mayor Suzanne Myers took office 10 months ago and shared what accomplishments have been made by the city. Her first task was moving the mayor’s office back to City Hall.

“And to try to amerce myself into a culture of people that worked so very hard every day and who are very competent in the roles they had and could do the job, they just needed the encouragement I felt to be able to do a great job,” she said.

She then spoke on the several partnerships the city has collaborated with to ensure the community is up to par and most importantly, thriving.

“There was $2.2. million awarded in grants to [the Tahlequah Regional Development Authority] and in collaboration with the city, significant improvements will be made to the Industrial Park, and I know that’s exciting for a lot of us,” Myers said.

Additionally, the city has been awarded over $700,000 for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to conduct a stormwater study, something Myers said hasn’t been done in over 50 years.

The mayor discussed working with partners to manage the homelessness situation in hopes of finding a reasonable solution.

Up next was a video presentation in which Tourism highlighted the year’s accomplishments. Gena McPhail, executive director for Tour Tahlequah and Explore Cherokee County, said she wanted to focus on bringing a higher number of motorcyclists to the area.

“We did that by inviting the Widows Sons to have a poker run for the very first time and that was fantastic to have 500 of them come in,” she said.

District 1 Cherokee County Commissioner Bobby “Cub” Whitewater piggybacked on tourism and the Beautification funds.

In 2020, Cherokee County voters passed the countywide lodging tax, which approved allocation of a 4 percent of gross rental receipts, and 25 percent is directed to the county for roadside beautification and litter removal.

Whitewater said the county is partnering with the Oklahoma Production Center (OPC) to pick up 42 miles of litter along the roads. The commission also touched on mental health awareness and the board passed a resolution in May 2023 for Mental Health Awareness Month.

“We placed a resource table at our courthouse, Cherokee Nation has public health and a few other things laid out on that table. Just showing that we do care. We do care about mental health, mental awareness and everybody else really needs to pay attention to that. If you see somebody struggling, reach out to them, give them help, let them know there’s someone there. There’s always someone they can call,” he said.

TACC CEO/President Nathan Reed said progress for the Strategic Plan is coming along this year.

“So far, we have completed or started every single one of the items they asked us to complete in that Strategic Plan,” he said.


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