ORIGIN: Starting the Conversation

A Common Thread In A Small Community

07.23.13 by Gene Phillips
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Every so often I’m reminded of how fortunate I am to have a career, a workplace, and a team that allows me to play a tangible part in my community. It seems like I’m always running to the next meeting or putting out some “fire”, so I usually only get to see this when I am given a moment to reflect. Today, I got that moment.

Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to create a great working relationship with the City of Jenks and Jenks Public Schools; and be involved in a number of their projects. When my family and I first moved to Tulsa, just over 25 years ago, I asked my wife where she wanted to live. She said she didn’t care as long as long as our kids went to Jenks Schools. I know now that there are a number of great school systems in the Tulsa metropolitan area; but, at the time, Jenks was widely regarded and was all we knew. So, my family has always lived in south Tulsa within the Jenks School District. We’ve just recently moved to the town of Jenks. And this move has renewed a new sense of community.

It seems of late that a large part of my work is in and around Jenks. Today started out no different than any other day for the past year or so. I had planned on spending the majority of my day in Jenks taking care of three or four projects we have ongoing. But today, we had an unexpected surprise. A small thunderstorm popped up and dumped quite a bit of rain in a short period of time in the Jenks downtown area. That 30-minute rain fall rearranged the entire day and made the day much more exciting.

Of course this would happen right in the middle of a concrete pour on one project and turn another in a panic because we were scheduled for a 3:00 am pour the next morning. And, yes, we had utility trenches open on a third project that already had water issues. But that’s everyday stuff we deal with all the time.  The exciting thing was that I had a moment to drive around and look at the projects that we had completed and see how they were working. I also had time to scope out a few new projects coming up and look for things that might impact them.

Driving around town, I realized we have done a lot of work in my community. And I got to play a part in all of it. From streets and intersections to banks and the Walgreens. From the Oklahoma Aquarium, our major attraction in town, to water lines, sewer main interceptors and the power plant that people will never think about. We have been a part of eight out of nine of the new buildings on the Jenks High School Campus and every new parking lot. Areas that would flood enough to drive a jet ski, by adding three major underground detention facilities, we have changed into dry parking. We are in the process of playing a part in improving the major entry and exit point into the City off of the Creek Turnpike, and are designing circulation roads to facilitate new retail expansion and easier access in and around The River District, Aquarium Drive, and access in and through town. We will also be playing a part in reclaiming flood-prone areas along Polecat Creek that will turn unusable land into more flood-friendly land and reclaim land that can then be developed.  All in all, I counted over 25 projects for a community under 20,000 in population and smaller than 18 square miles in size.

I would say that we at Wallace are playing a major role in putting together the fabric of my community. One that will provide a better education for kids. Maybe even my grandkids one day. One that makes the streets more user friendly and safe. One that has the things I like to do and need, nearby and easy to get to. One that has a true sense of community. And one that I can say we were a single common thread in making happen.

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M. Gene Phillips, PE


Gene received his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree from the University of Oklahoma. He is a licensed Professional Engineer in 19 states. Gene’s…

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