Dr. Tom McKeon, vice president and executive director of City Year Tulsa, is a long-time Oklahoma Academy board member. He has served the organization in multiple roles including 2011 Chairman of the Board, 2010 Town Hall Chair and 2010 Gubernatorial Forum Moderator. Under his leadership, the Henry L. Bellmon Legacy fund, an endowment to provide long-term sustainability to the organization, was created. Dr. McKeon is the 2016 recipient of the Oklahoma Academy's Key Contributor Award, which will be presented Friday, Aug. 19 at the 23rd Annual Salute.
Each year, the Key Contributor award is presented to an individual, organization or corporation who has given generously of themselves to support the organization's events, public policy recommendations and implementation efforts and, by extension, demonstrated their commitment to improving the quality of life for all Oklahomans.
This month we?re featuring Dr. McKeon in our board member spotlight. During his more than two decades of service to the organization, he has contributed his passion, knowledge, time and treasure to our mission and solvency. It is our great honor to recognize him with the Key Contributor award and feature him in our spotlight.
Academy Spotlight: Dr. Tom McKeon
You?ve been on the Oklahoma Academy Board for 20+ years. Why did you originally become involved with the organization?
I first became aware of the Oklahoma Academy as part of my LOK Class X program year. We attended the Academy?s Annual Conference and the topic that year was education. I was captivated by the engaging process that solicited ideas from the participants in a meaningful way and jumped at the opportunity to continue my involvement with the Oklahoma Academy.
What excites you the most about the Oklahoma Academy?s mission?
The Oklahoma Academy engages citizens from across Oklahoma in shaping public
What do you find most challenging about supporting the organization?s mission?
It takes a significant number of volunteers to plan and execute a meaningful Town Hall. Getting effective volunteers and training them for their Town Hall role is very important and at times can be a real challenge.
What do you wish other people knew about the Oklahoma Academy?
The Oklahoma Academy is very humble in touting its accomplishments. I wish more people knew how much the Academy has done in Oklahoma and how our elected officials value its work.
In your opinion, what Town Hall topic has been the most important or interesting?
It was 2003, and the Town Hall topic was energy and water. This was my first experience facilitating a Town Hall team and Governor Walters was a participant in my group. We were discussing the idea of a required inclusion of wind energy as part of a public utilities energy portfolio. Bill McKamey who was then with AEP PSO and our Governor had strongly differing opinions on this. I sent them off to a large closet with Elizabeth Frame (Ellison), who was then a college student, to hash out a compromise recommendation. After some time the three emerged with a consensus recommendation. This ultimately led to the implementation of a renewable energy goal for utilities in Oklahoma.
You have been very involved with Oklahoma Academy events over the years, which is most memorable?
The Annual Salute is my most favorite event. It is a great time to see friends and colleagues from across Oklahoma and to network with our elected officials. There is no heavy agenda, the Capitol Steps are always a treat and it is in Tulsa and close to home.
You are the recipient of the 2016 Oklahoma Academy Key Contributor Award. What does that mean to you?
It is a very nice honor and I am humbled by the recognition, particularly because I have so enjoyed being a part of the Oklahoma Academy for so many years. It is pretty easy being involved in an organization that you believe in and can see the direct and positive
results of the organization?s work within the State.
As you look ahead to the next several years, what do you see for the Oklahoma Academy?
The Oklahoma Academy continues to refine its processes and programs and that is a good thing. In doing so, it is important that the Academy doesn?t veer far from its existing work and mission. The Academy needs to look seriously at succession planning to insure the excellent foundation and processes that have been developed by Julie and the board is maintained and sustained, and that the organization stays true to its work during a transition of leadership.
What public policy issue do you think is most important for Oklahoma and/or would you like to see the Oklahoma Academy take on?
The lack of significant and stable financial support for education in Oklahoma is our single most important issue. Education funding is at a crisis stage in Oklahoma. We are doing irreparable harm to our educational system that, at the best, could take decades to turnaround. Our teacher talent is leaving the State in record numbers to pursue salaries at significantly higher levels elsewhere. We have an incredible dearth of elected leadership regarding education support in Oklahoma, while we know that there is a direct correlation to educational attainment and per capita income. An educated populace is employed at significantly greater levels, is healthier, is more civically engaged and has significantly lower rates of incarceration and pays taxes at higher rates than those with lower levels of educational attainment.
It is imperative that we double down on our efforts to adequately fund education on Oklahoma.
What is your hope for the Oklahoma Academy in the future?
That the Oklahoma Academy continues to be viewed very positively as a diverse, non-partisan public policy think tank on issues of significant importance to Oklahoma. The Academy continues to get better in ?putting ideas into action? through its legislative advocacy and outreach on topics and policies that emerge from the Town Hall process. It is my hope that the Oklahoma Academy continues to get better and engaged at increasingly higher levels in the legislative advocacy work.