McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

March 13, 2013

A new face joins race

Hunt seeks to assist in his new hometown

WAURIKA — On the surface, Matthew Hunt appears to be the “newby” in town. But what’s below the surface can be revealing.

In the race for Position 3 on the Waurika City Commission, two-term incumbent Carole Eakin and challenger Bill Ray are long-time residents of the community and both have history in city government.

On the surface, Hunt has lived in Waurika less than five years, and this is his first venture into politics. But Hunt is no stranger to the county seat of Jefferson County.

“My dad (Rev. Al Hunt) pastored at Trinity Holiness Church from 1982 to ’84, and from ages four to six, I lived hear. So, I’ve known of Waurika and some of the people here all my life,” said Hunt.

“Because of my dad, we came back to the church on and off over the years, and I preached there on and off for several years.”

When Hunt, wife Kristi and daughter Anna made a trip to Waurika in 2007, it wasn’t just to visit old friends or fill-in at the pulpit. Matt Hunt had been named minister at Trinity Holiness — a position he continues to hold — and Matt eventually opened a barber shop at the corner of Meridian and D streets.

“In 2007, the congregation (at Trinity Holiness) was about to close the doors, but they asked if I’d try to get the church going again,” he explained. “For a while, I worked in Duncan, but we moved to the (Waurika) community and we fell in love with the community and the people.

“I had the barber shop a while and did decent business, and I got to know a lot more people.”

While running the barber shop, Hunt began conducting religious services at Jefferson County Jail and also began doing volunteer work and holding classes at the Oklahoma Department of Corrections Work Center.

Since he was already committed to pastoring to prisoners, when an opening on the dispatch staff developed in 2011, going to work full-time for the sheriff’s office seemed like a natural move.

When he filed to run in the April 2 municipal election, Hunt felt he had become a Waurikan.

“I really like the community and the people, and I don’t see myself leaving any time soon. I feel like God put us here,” he said. “I also felt like, if I was going to raise a family here, I wanted to do my part to help the community become better.

“One of the things that prompted me to run, in part, was I’ve heard some negative things about the community. But I believe that if you don’t like what you see, rather than speaking forever on the negatives you should work on what you think should be changed.

“I think Waurika is a good place to live, and I want to see it become a better place.”

Hunt admits he’s a political novice and becoming a city commissioner will involve a learning curve. But he’s anxious to learn the processes of city government and has begun to outline an agenda of issues he’d like to address.

“I’m unfamiliar with the way the council does a lot of things, but I want to work with others who’ve been doing this for some time,” he said. “I want to mix my potential with their ideas and what’s going on in the community.

“I see a lot of old, abandoned houses and businesses around town that just seem to be falling down. That’s something I’d like to see change. It makes the city less of an attraction for people to come here to live.

“I’m interesting in helping our law enforcement, and I know the city and county law enforcement people. If there’s a way I can help out with that, I want to do so.

“I think the (Jefferson County Detention) Center has been a blessing, as far as opening several jobs for the community and the area, and I think the new (DOC) Work Center will be a good thing.”

If elected, Hunt said, “I know there’s a lot of things that will be learning-as-I-go, and I’m more than willing to learn.

“I hope people realize I’m here to stay and do my part for the community.”

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