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In this job market, things are tight, positions are few, and many have decided to look for new occupations, often in a field very different from what they left by choice, or due to a layoff, downsizing or firing. Fortunately, I enjoy my position at okcBIZ, but wanted to see what else might be out there. After all, I might want to be mayor some day.
Behind the scenes at City Hall, he often has full days and obligations that require him to shift gears at a moment’s notice. One minute he might be discussing the Oklahoma City Thunder on his “Mayor’s Magazine” monthly television program, and then turn around and walk into a meeting to discuss the city’s efforts to help the population slim down and avoid heart disease.
So how does Cornett shift gears so seamlessly and be able to speak on just about any subject? He credits his years as a television reporter for being able to bring himself up to speed on any given topic, or quickly retaining talking points.
“One of the challenges is having a mastery over all those different subject matters,” he says. “I find myself using a lifetime of experience from growing up here to working in the media and then the last 10 years on the City Council and as mayor. You never stop learning in this job.”
Mayoral Management With a job where many want a few minutes of his time, Cornett says he could not manage his schedule without the help of Gayleen Keeton, his executive assistant. The mayor is granted an executive assistant, as well as a chief of staff. Cornett says Keeton also keeps him from checking his watch as he chats with visitors.
“It’s easy for me to get engaged in a conversation with someone and want to continue, but we have something on the schedule and don’t want to keep the next person waiting,” he says.
Keeton makes sure the mayor knows who is coming in next so he can greet them by name. She says he is good with names and faces, but when he meets and greets thousands of people each year, it’s difficult to remember that firefighter or local award winner you met a year ago. With so many handshakes, Cornett does his best to avoid catching cold: “I do wash my hands a lot,” he says.
In preparation for City Council meetings, he meets regularly with City Manager Jim Couch, who runs day-today operations under the city government structure, and makes sure there are no surprises when Cornett steps up to his seat on the council horseshoe.
Another tactic he uses to remain up-todate on what other mayors around the world are doing is to simply do a Google search in the news section for the word “mayor.”
“I read stories about other mayors around the world,” he says. “It helps you have a wide variety of information and talking points, and you’re able to add some scope to the conversation you might not have had otherwise.”
So what advice would Cornett give to a person with mayoral aspirations? He thought long and hard before answering.
“I don’t think it should be a goal in and of itself,” he says.
Instead, Cornett says one should focus on a career and family and then see if there is a desire for public service. While the job carries prestige, he warns of the rigors caused from the 24/7 nature of the position.
“You’re always the mayor, and you need to accept that responsibility,” he says.
In the course of keeping abreast of everything going on in the city, and monitoring any changes at the state or federal level that might affect the city, Cornett has little time to keep up with prime-time television or the latest celebrities. He jokes that he might want to incorporate People magazine into his reading list. In a weekly KTOK radio chat each week from his office, Cornett was asked a question about the dysfunctional Kardashian clan from the reality television show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”
Cornett says he is aware of Kim Kardashian, but would be hardpressed to pick her out of a crowd. Popculture darlings aside, Cornett says the hardest part of the job is keeping up on nearly everything and being ready to face new challenges daily.
“The job continues to grow as the city continues to grow,” he says. “There are new opportunities all the time. One of the challenges is keeping up.”
And while it’s not a requirement of the job, Cornett said he fills his closet with custom-made suits and hundreds of ties. He says he went to a tailor when he first ran for mayor and said he wanted to look mayoral.
“The tailor smiled and said, ‘We can do that.’”