Craig Freeman, city manager of Oklahoma City, worked for the city for decades before becoming the city manager. Here, he talks about his day-to-day work and what he does when he’s not on the clock.
As concisely as possible, what does your job look like day to day?
The City of Oklahoma City provides a broad range of services to our residents. The challenges of my job vary greatly from day to day, but the focus is providing excellent customer service to our residents every day. To accomplish that, we work with the mayor and council as they provide leadership on policies and priorities for our organization and for the community.
I’m blessed to work with a great team of city employees and elected officials. My job is to lead our city employees and ensure they have the resources they need as they serve our residents. I also serve as a trustee on five public trusts and as the general manager of three additional public trusts.
Which parts of your educational and professional background best prepared you for the job?
My degrees are from the University of Central Oklahoma. My bachelor’s degree is in political science and public service, and my master’s degree is in urban affairs — both provided a foundation and insight for what I would experience in public administration. I have been blessed to work for the City of Oklahoma City for 30 years; that experience provided the best preparation for this job. The relationships that have been built both within the organization and in the community through my years of service help me greatly as I serve. Staying in the same organization has allowed me to better understand how to serve the community, to work with our mayor and council and to lead the organization.
Was this a position you were seeking, or did you come into it indirectly? In other words, was this a goal, or did someone suggest you might find it a good fit? What attracted you to the position?
After graduating from UCO, I wanted to be a city manager in a small city. I came to work for OKC to get experience first. Here I met smart, caring and innovative co-workers who were so dedicated to serving the residents that I decided to make a career in public service for the City of Oklahoma City. At that point, I took my eyes off being a city manager and focused on being the best public servant that I could be. I have had so many great co-workers and mentors who have taught me so much and who have given me opportunities to learn and grow, that it led me to this position. I wanted to continue advancing in the organization and serving in leadership but didn’t expect to be city manager. Jim Couch is the longest-serving and most impactful city manager this city has ever had. Jim has been and still is a trusted mentor and one of my strongest supporters. I sought counsel from many trusted advisors before applying for the job, and as a Christian, I prayed about the opportunity and left it in God’s hands to guide me to where I was supposed to be.
What are the best and the most difficult aspects of what you do?
What I enjoy most about this job is that we serve our residents where they live every day. It’s also the most challenging part of the job. The decisions we make, and the work our employees do, affect the lives of almost 700,000 residents. When something goes wrong, we hear about it quickly and sometimes with strong emotion. That is because the services we provide are so important to people in how they live and work and play. This challenge brings me back to what I love about this job.
What do you do to get away from your job, in terms of hobbies, interests and pursuits?
I love spending time with my family. My wife Rhonda and I have been married for 38 years, and she is still the love of my life and my best friend. We have three adult children and four grandchildren, and we spend time with them as often as we can. Beyond our family, Rhonda and I serve and teach in a Sunday School class at our church. I also enjoy cycling and love to ride the city trails. I’m more of a recreational cyclist but enjoy it all the same.