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May 1, 2012

Mitchell retires from MidAmerica

After 35 years running MidAmerica Industrial Park, Sanders Mitchell is stepping down.

Friends and admirers gathered Thursday night in the MidAmerica Expo Center to honor him. Pryor Creek Mayor Jimmy Tramel announced a proclamation making April 26 Sanders Mitchell Day in Pryor.

Chouteau Mayor Jerry Floyd thanked Mitchell for his friendship over the years.

Owner of Ivan’s Limited Jewelry, Ivan Pace, said in the cowboy world a high compliment is “you’ll do.” Pace told his friend Mitchell, “you’ll do.”

Sen. Sean Burrage talked about his first campaign and how he was told to contact Mitchell because he knew everybody. Burrage said that once he was elected, Mitchell told him to support a particular piece of legisaltion in the Senate.  

It was a bill to make it possible for Internet search engine giant Google to open a data center in MidAmerica Industrial Park.

Ben Robinson, from Rep. Dan Boren’s office, joked that Boren couldn’t attend because he isn’t running for another term, so he really didn’t want to bother coming. Robinson said Boren actually was unavailable because he was in Washington, D.C.

Jonna Kirschner, deputy director and counsel of the state Commerce Department, spoke of her friendship with Mitchell and presented him with a replica of the statue “The Guardian” by sculptor and former Sen. Enoch Kelly Haney. The Guardian statue sets atop the state Capitol dome.

Rep. Ben Sherrer made reference to the statue, saying Mitchell has been the guardian for northeastern Oklahoma.

Rogers State University President Dr. Larry Rice, a state representative from Pryor for many years, spoke about how things have changed since Mitchell arrived at MidAmerica.

“In 1977, a new comedian named Jay Leno made his debut on ‘The Tonight Show,’” Rice said. “The Dow closed one day at 831 points.  Some computer programers got together and started a new company called Apple Computer. A new BMW car cost $8,000. And you could fill up that car with gas at a cost of 65 cents a gallon.”

Rice said it was Mitchell who brought the Oklahoma State University Technology Center and Rogers State University to the park. Ground-breaking for the new Rogers State University campus is scheduled for Monday.

Former Sen. Stratton Taylor said Mitchell “left the campground a little cleaner than he found it.”  Taylor cited upgrades to the park including an airport and two schools. Taylor said that when a new governor’s administration would eye MidAmerica for revenue, Mitchell would tell Taylor to “tell them to go to hell — and say it in such a way that makes them look forward to the trip.”

Larry Williams of the Oklahoma Ordinance Works Authority talked about something  Mitchell taught him. “Larry, take care of the nickels, and the quarters will take care of themselves.”

Williams called Mitchell “a great leader.” for MidAmerica.

A commendation from Gov. Mary Fallin was read honoring Mitchell’s service.

“I’ve never heard so many wild stories. Some of them might be true,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the park was originally 14,000 acres when the DuPont powder plant was in operation. The DuPont plant predated MidAmerica Industrial Park. Today, the park is between 6,500 and 7,000 acres, according to Mitchell.

Mitchell was presented a new fishing rod for his retirement.

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