Glenn Lewis, Mayor of Moore, Oklahoma, USA
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Mayor of the Month for July 2013
Mayor of Moore, Oklahoma, USA
By Tony Favro, USA Editor
1 July 2013: Tornados, like lightning, alight in a hit-or-miss fashion, and not every community is touched more than once in an average person’s lifetime. One city in the US that was devastated twice by tornadoes in recent years was Moore, Oklahoma (population 55,000). Hundreds of buildings were severely damaged or destroyed when some of the most powerful tornadoes ever recorded tore through Moore in 1999 and again on 20 May of this year. The most recent tornado killed 24 people, including 10 children. Glenn Lewis was the city’s mayor during both disasters, and, both times, his leadership was widely praised as exemplary.
A narrow swath of land in Central Oklahoma roughly bisected by Interstate Highway 44 is known as “Tornado Alley”. The US National Weather Service has recorded hundreds of tornadoes in the region over the past 120 years. In 2009, Popular Mechanics magazine named the corridor one of the eight most dangerous places to live on Earth because of the frequency and severity of tornado strikes. The magazine said that living in Tornado Alley is as hazardous as living next to an active volcano in Indonesia, in the extreme cold and isolation of deepest Siberia, or on the hurricane-prone island of Haiti.
When President Barack Obama visited Moore after the May 2013 storms, he said that the federal government would support affected residents and businesses “every step of the way.” At that point, rescue efforts were ending and Mayor Lewis was already taking the first steps toward recovery.
He hosted Community Assistance Meetings where people could get vital disaster information and assistance in one place directly from organizations such as the American Red Cross, US Small Business Association, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Mayor Lewis continues to convene these meetings so residents and service agencies can work together to define needs and the most appropriate responses.
Mayor Lewis instituted a 6:00 pm curfew to keep people safe and out of the way of recovery workers and equipment, and to prevent looting. He asked people to check on their neighbors and offer help. He realized that everyone is a leader who can make a difference.
Power outages left banks, gas stations, and food stores closed, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) inoperable, and traffic lights out. The Mayor helped coordinate law enforcement and relief operations, so that people could travel safely and get needed medicines, money, and fuel.
He also attended to less visible but important details to help the recovery proceed as effectively as possible, including sheltering hundreds of pets that were set loose by the storms, expediting building permits to repair damaged structures or build new, and qualifying contractors so people don’t get defrauded.
Mayor Lewis won his first nonpartisan election as the city’s part-time mayor in 1994 and has served continually ever since. A professional jeweler, he lost his warehouse and factory in the May storm.
Despite his personal loss, Mayor Lewis conveys a sense of calm and order on television and radio. The connection to his constituents and their losses is clear, as is his matter-of-fact resiliency. “We’ve been through it before, and we’ll get through it again,” he told MSNBC, a reassurance he repeats in various ways to the media.
There is no doubt that Moore, Oklahoma and other communities affected by the tornadoes are strong. Mayor Glenn Lewis’ leadership has demonstrated to his constituents and the wider world just how tough their communities’ character can be.
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