Story and photo by Van Mitchell. Staff Writer
teve Gentling likes being involved and engaged in the community.
He has served in that capacity as both a private citizen, and as Mayor of Guthrie since 2015.
“When we moved to Guthrie, I got pretty involved with a lot of different community activities,” he said. “I joined the Lions Club right off the bat. I became a member of the ‘89er Day Parade Committee and ultimately chaired it for four or five years. I was chairman of the Logan County United Way for three years, and as a board member of American Legion Post 58. I got involved with a lot of local community activities. making a (good) community even better.”
After Gentling retired as the director of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Oklahoma City, his desire to serve continued.
“When I retired, I still wanted to continue to be engaged and involved,” Gentling said. “Some people came and said, “You might want to think about running for mayor. I hadn’t really thought of it too much. I had been, again, engaged with a lot of community activities, but not with governmental activities. I thought about what I had to contribute, and thought about wanting to make the community even better. So, I decided to run.”
Born in Rochester, Minn., Gentling said early on in his life he decided he wanted to be a hospital administrator.
He went to graduate school at University of Missouri at Columbia, Missouri in Health Administration. “They had a VA hospital there in Columbia and I did a residency there, and liked it,” he said. “They offered me a job out of graduate school, and so I joined the VA healthcare system. And then moved around, went from Columbia, to Albuquerque, to Minneapolis, to Madison, to Omaha, to Dallas, to Oklahoma City. I spent 36 years in the VA healthcare system. The last 20 years as as the Director of the VA Medical Center in Oklahoma City.
Gentling and his wife Sue have three adult children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, all who live in Oklahoma.
“When we originally came to Oklahoma City, we lived in Edmond,” he said. “Then as I got closer to looking at retirement, again, having lived in Minnesota, we always liked to live on, be on the water. I started looking around for some property that was on water and just happened to find a lot on Lake Guthrie. We built a home and moved from Edmond to Guthrie.”
Gentling said his leadership and communication skills have helped him as mayor
“I think I have some skill sets that facilitate bringing people together, focusing on where we are and where we want to be,” he said.”
Gentling said he campaigned on the need to generate more revenue for the Guthrie community and to increase the city’s sales tax.
“In the next year, 2016, we went to the people with a three-quarters of a cent sales tax increase, and it passed,” he said. “It was for 15 years, and will generate about $19 million over those 15 years. From my perspective, I think that was really one of the things that really helped us start to move ahead, start to do some things.”
Gentling said it takes a team effort to build community success, and has high praise for Guthrie’s leadership team that includes new City Manager Eddie Faulkner, and former City Manager Leroy Alsup, the city administration staff, and members of the city council maximizing the resources that are available to the city.
“Leroy and Eddie, I think, are just quality people that have contributed significantly to our community in their administration of the city and of the resources,” he said. “The council, seven different people, sometimes seven different views. I think we’ve been able to come together to do what is best for Guthrie. I think we’ve listened to citizens. And, I think generally we have been pretty much a close-knit council.”
Gentling said Guthrie is tackling its biggest project with a new $20 million wastewater treatment plant.
“That’s the biggest financial project that this community has ever undertaken, and it should be finished in 2025,” he said. “A large project that we just got the go ahead on, which actually was one of my visions back in 2016, was a youth sports complex. We’ve got a $1 million grant, we’ve matched that with $1 million for phase one, $2 million phase one to enhance our youth sports complex. I see it as an economic engine for the community. I see it as it being one of the go-to places for youth and adult softball, baseball tournaments. I see it as a significant revenue generator for our community down the road.”
Gentling said Guthrie is growing with at least 800 new homes being built in the next few years.
“We’ve got four new community developments, housing developments that when they’re all finished will add about 800 rooftops to our community, that’s significant,” he said.
Gentling said he is a positive person, and tries to relay that in everything he does.
“I’m a cheerleader. I am a very optimistic person, so I see the very positives in everything and everybody,” Gentling said. “That’s why I don’t call them problems, I call them opportunities. And some would say, “Well, he’s got his rose colored-glasses on.” Well, if that’s the testament on my tombstone, I’ll be happy with that. Because I much prefer to see the goodness and the positivity rather than the negativity.”