By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
For September, the Oklahoma County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (OCCDLA) will host a special Monthly Luncheon Seminar on Thursday, September 15 at 12 noon. This one-of-a-kind event will be the backdrop for the “Oklahoma County Sheriff Debate” between incumbent Sheriff John Whetsel and State Rep. Mike Christian.
Sponsored by attorneys Anita Sanders and Kirby Evans, lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m. at the 4th floor auditorium of the Ron Norick Downtown Library, at 300 Park Avenue in Oklahoma City.
Voters will go to the polls on November 8 to cast their ballot for the new Oklahoma County Sheriff. Billy Coyle, OCCDLA President, will moderate the forum, which is open to the public.
“This event is open to judges, attorneys, and the entire public,” said Billy, attorney for the Coyle Law Firm, in downtown Oklahoma City.
“In this election year, there are so many people who aren’t happy with their party’s candidate,” Billy said. Wondering if that fact would lead to low voter turnout, he stated enthusiastically, “This debate will be electric.”
Participation in this program will earn 1 CLE (Continuing Legal Education) hour credit – no ethics.
Now in his fourth term, Whetsel, a Democrat, has served as Sheriff of Oklahoma County since 1997. A resident of Choctaw, he began his law enforcement career in 1967, joined the Choctaw Police Department in 1973, and served as Choctaw Chief of Police for 21 years.
Sheriff Whetsel is a graduate of Midwest City High School. He has earned an Advanced Law Enforcement Certificate, is a state certified police instructor, has earned as Associate degree in Police Science from Southwestern College, a Bachelor degree in Government and Sociology from the University of Central Oklahoma, and has Master’s studies in Criminal Justice.
Challenging Whetsel is Mike Christian, a Republican member of the Oklahoma State House of Representatives (District 93). He was first elected to the chamber in 2008.
Rep. Christian currently serves as the Public Safety committee chair. He has also served as the Appropriations and Budget subcommittee chair. His other legislative service includes the County & Municipal Government, Transportation, and Utility & Environmental Regulation committees.
From Durant, Christian graduated high school in 1988 and attended the University of Oklahoma. He was accepted to the 48th Academy of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol in 1995 where he served for ten years as a State Trooper.
“They say they’re friends and like each other,” Coyle added. “We intend on it being fair both ways. It’s a hot issue.”
The luncheon is free to OCCDLA members and $10 for non-members, but for this event Coyle said he really wants to draw a big audience. “We’ll have plenty of food, but if you don’t get to eat, that’s your fault,” Billy said jokingly.
Guests are encouraged to come early to eat and to get a good seat for the debate.
“This kind of event is important to our community,’ noted Pat McGuigan, editor and publisher of The City Sentinel. “In years like this, presidential elections dominate news coverage, crowding out other issues. This debate among the aspirants for local ‘top cop’ is an opportunity for citizens to assess candidates for an important job that is by, of and for this county — a level of government close to the governed.
“Local law enforcement is where the rubber meets the road in every effort to improve the quality of life for everyone who works and pay taxes, and for those who aspire to do so. Reform at the local level can take years, sometimes generations,” McGuigan added.
“Often the best people to bring reform are those who best know the system, with all of its strengths and weaknesses.”
In 2014 The City Sentinel covered an informative Oklahoma County Judicial Candidates Forum, also hosted by OCCDLA, that introduced voters to all of the judges running for District 7 (Oklahoma County).
“I encourage everyone who can to attend this special program hosted by the Oklahoma County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. These two men deserve respect for their willingness to have a one-on-one exchange of ideas,” McGuigan said.
For more information, call Billy or Jean at 405-232-1988.