By Mitch Meador
Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday paid her first official visit to Fort Sill since taking office.
"Fort Sill and Lawton are a very important part of Oklahoma because we have so many of our war fighters who are being trained here," she said. "(It's) especially important to our mission as a nation, to keep our nation safe and certainly to deploy to various areas of the world where we fight for our freedom as a nation."
The governor said she was here to get a "great" tour, talk about the mission of Fort Sill and continue to build upon the community partnership that is so important to keeping Oklahoma's five military installations safe and secure.
Fallin said she actually comes here quite a bit.
"I was a member of the (U.S. House) Armed Services Committee, and so I've been here several times. But over the last five years there has been $1.2 billion of investment because the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) Commission moved a lot of services and training here to Fort Sill. So it's been exciting to see all the construction, all the work, the movement of personnel who have come to Fort Sill," she said.
Fallin said Southwest Oklahoma is very important to her and has been over her 20-year political career.
"These military installations are very important. I've met already, several times this week, with various members from this area of Oklahoma, talking about our communities, talking about the military and how important it is for economic development, how important it is for jobs and opportunities in Southwest Oklahoma.
"The biggest thing we're working on, too, is just having a better line of communication, cooperation and partnerships with Lawton, Fort Sill and the surrounding communities, even with our other military installations whether it's Altus, Enid, Tinker and how can we continue to bring that synergy of our state and of cooperation so we can continue to grow our jobs and certainly protect our military bases," Fallin said.
The governor said she met just this week with the Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission. People from all areas of the state were sitting around the table, talking about what Oklahoma needs to do to continue to support its military installations.
"I think just having that line of communications is one of the first things you should do, and you need to do," she said.
Fallin was asked about a bill approved Wednesday by an Oklahoma House of Representatives committee that would repeal collective bargaining rights for municipal workers in Oklahoma's 13 largest cities, including Lawton.
"I haven't seen the exact language yet. I'm aware of it, but certainly we all have budgets that we have to balance, and municipalities have budgets that they have to balance," she said. "It's been a trying time for our state, as we're coming out of a recession. The good news is our economy is growing, but it's a slow economic recovery, and so cities and towns, just like state government, have to balance their budgets We'll continue to monitor that legislation and just see what happens as it works itself through the process."