Telling the history of Claremore one story at a time…
Excerpts taken from Claremore Daily Progress April 6, 2023, Renee Fite Progress Correspondent’s article, from Rev. Mike Schroeder who spoke at Bill Flanagan’s memorial service along with input from Claremore Museum of History Board of Directors.
The old saying when E.F. Hutton talks, people listen. The same could be said about Claremore Mayor, Bill Flanagan. Everyone who reads the newspaper or pays attention to community leaders knows Rogers County and Bill Flanagan were synonymous for decades, serving as Mayor of Claremore from 2013 – 2023. For the mayors that follow in his footsteps, they will have mighty big shoes to fill.
He was born on August 26, 1945 in Hugo, Oklahoma. He attended Hugo High School graduating in 1963, both as an outstanding student and athlete. He went on to study and receive a degree in accounting at Southeastern State University in Durant on a football scholarship. Whether you were looking into his steely eyes or were intimated by his physical presence, once you lined up opposite of him and that low, gravelly voice started to explain what was getting ready to happen, the linemen on the opposite side of the ball listened.
In 2004, Mayor Flanagan was named Claremore Citizen of the Year, received the Claremore Chamber of Commerce Career Achievement Award in 2014, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rogers County GOP. He was active in the Claremore community many years, serving on numerous boards and committees, including Trustee on the Rogers State University Foundation; Board Chairman of Hope Harbor Children’s Home for over 20 years; and served many years on the Claremore Park Board of Directors. The Claremore Park Board was instrumental, along with the city, in the development of the Claremore Expo Center. His recognitions brought with them a much-deserved respect and when he made his many acceptance speeches for the awards and accolades, people listened.
At the state level, he was appointed by Oklahoma’s Governor to serve on the Oklahoma State Board of Education and was Trustee for both the Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs, and the Oklahoma Liberty Foundation. He also served seven years as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army National Guard and Army Reserves and was a proud veteran.
Flanagan was sworn in as Claremore’s Mayor in 2013 to serve the remainder of the late Mayor Mickey Perry’s term. He subsequently ran successfully for two additional four-year terms. Flanagan was overheard many times saying how honored he was to serve the Claremore community as their Mayor for a decade. Before he stepped in as mayor, he ran a public accounting practice in Claremore for 35 years. He’s was a CPA for nearly 50 years and a Personal Financial Specialist since 1990. The people who hired him to do their books trusted him. He was a man that was honest and would share his opinion on the best financial options available and when he spoke, his client’s listened.
After being involved in local and state leadership for many years, Flanagan wanted to use that experience to help his community grow and prosper. He served with two Claremore City Councils under Mayors Harry Powers and Mickey Perry, and was familiar with operations of a municipal government. “Successful local government operations act as a domino effect and leads to positive benefits at both the county and state level” he was quoted saying. He wanted to “give back to the community which had given so much to him”, he often said. He truly made an impact for future generations of Claremore citizens.
He left many positive memories from his time in public office and developed relationships with community and business leaders across Claremore and across the state of Oklahoma. During his mayoral service, he was on various boards and committees and advocated for our community on a local, state and federal level. In addition, he collaborated with local public schools, secondary-education institutions, health care, the faith-based community, county officials, tribal entities and others, always striving for positive change to move our city forward. His expertise across industries, organizations and government gave him a network of influence that when he spoke, his peers listened.
As a community representative for Claremore with the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s legislative and economic development initiatives, he traveled alongside leaders across Northeast Oklahoma and on a national level, to exchange ideas and advocate for public policy needed for long-term growth and success.
“The people of Claremore are our best asset. The City of Claremore and Rogers County are among the state’s fastest-growing areas. We are known for our numerous tourist attractions, world-class museums, parks, lakes, recreational opportunities, dining establishments, and excellent business and educational opportunities,” Flanagan said during his last days in office. Under his leadership, he ensured the city keep striving to be a destination city. With the City of Claremore operations being an $80 million business, Bill focused on balancing budgets, economic growth and bringing jobs to Claremore.
Flanagan’s mental toughness, his work ethic, his character, his integrity, his determination to keep trying until you finally succeed and his refusal to ever complain about any personal challenges he was facing gave him a presence that demanded respect. People sought out Bill for his advice. That large booming voice didn’t hurt either because like we’ve said, when Bill Flanagan talked, people listened!