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First Osage mayor of Pawhuska shares her plans for the city

Susan Bayro on being mayor for the City of Pawhuska and also the Secretary of Administration for the Osage Nation: “No one ever saw it coming,” she says.

Pawhuska’s new mayor, Susan Bayro, is not only the city’s first Osage mayor – as of Monday, June 3, she also became the Osage Nation’s Secretary of Administration. Bayro hopes to use both positions to improve the relationship between the city and the Nation.

Bayro’s job as Secretary of Administration began 27 days after she became mayor. Prior to her change in position, she was a strategic planning analyst for the Self-governance and Strategic Planning Department at the Nation, highlighting the fierce planning skills she brings to the office of both mayor and secretary.

Her career with the Nation started in 2011 when she began in Information Technology as a business systems analyst. “I’m very fortunate that I have knowledge on both sides,” she said and outlined her experiences on water projects as well as wastewater and Broadband.

As a professional, she’s focused on streamlining and improving processes using data, and her resume includes items spanning from administering the first census for the Nation to helping establish an Osage financial institution. At the city, Bayro said that some of her priorities will overlap.

Bayro will be the liaison between city and Nation, she said, and will help overcome the “wall in between them. I’m saying, ‘This is how you navigate. This is who you need to talk to, this is their number,’ and I can come in on the back end with Osage Nation and say, ‘There is this particular issue, can you talk about it? Are you available for a meeting?’”

The city doesn’t want to be disrespectful, said Bayro. “They want to follow the proper ways and channels, so that’s the type of thing I want to continue to do and improve in,” she said.

Internally at the city, Bayro will focus on the budget and straightening out finances as well as working on policies and procedures. “I’ll be making sure their goals get updated,” she added. “I would like to think that my strong suit is working on policies and procedures.”

Once Bayro updates city policies and procedures, her next goal is to work on grants that the city wants to go after.

“We just did the comprehensive plan and the capital improvement plan for the city, so now we have a plan we can follow. That information is useful for when we go after grants.”

Housing

Chief among the city’s priorities to pursue for citizens and infrastructure is housing – an issue that overlaps with the Nation’s goals. “There are housing needs on both sides, but you have to understand that the City of Pawhuska in just focused on the city, … it’s a larger area of input with the Osage Nation. … but housing is a need on both sides.”

The city is currently considering plans for duplexes to be in the residential section around 18th and Claremore, near the cemetery. Additionally, the city is undertaking grant-writing projects for roads as well as for water and waste infrastructure, although they have no current plans to implement recycling.

Susan Bayro was first elected to the Pawhuska City Council in 2022. Osage News

Williams Park

Williams Park is also on the list to receive attention; the park will get more playground equipment for children of various ages and will also become handicap accessible. Bayro said the park is an important priority particularly because both the community and visitors go there.

Other initiatives that might benefit many in the city can be considered if a citizen brings the item to the city council, Bayro said. “If somebody wants something on the agenda, they go to City Hall and speak to the clerk, saying that they want to submit an item to the agenda.”

Growing the city in a healthy way is one or her largest goals and she’ll do so by capitalizing on existing businesses. “It starts with our Chamber of Commerce, they continuously improve and do great work,” she said.

She also wants to improve communication with local businesses. “There is a lot of eyes on the city right now, and a lot of interest to come here, so [I] definitely [want to] capitalize on it now, while there is so much interest in coming here, because it doesn’t appear to be stopping,” she said.

Growing Pawhuska

Bayro predicts that the new Wahzhazhe Health Center and other projects the Nation has underway will draw more people to move to Pawhuska. Such projects will “bring more positions, and people are going to want to come. The schools are always bringing new types of classes in, they are bringing in aviation,” she said, describing a three-year program started by international drone safety testing company WindShape in partnership with the tribe’s Education Department.

“It’s those students in those classes that are going to grow up and live here,” said Bayro. And she has a plan to find the housing needed to keep them there.

“There is a lot of properties that the city owns that are vacant, and there is a push to tear down dilapidated buildings, so you have those properties open so people can come in and build. That is currently happening now,” she said.

City ordinances align with those demolition plans, Bayro said, and there is a huge push to make sure it happens. Of the Nation’s oft-bandied-about desire to bring Osages home, Bayro said it’s going to happen.

“They will come back home, because I have two kids myself. My hope would be for them to come back home but be in an area where there is growth. … Within the next two years, everyone should see homes being built, brand new homes being built.”

New grocery store

A new, bigger grocery store will be another step toward growing the town, said Bayro. She noted that Harps, which is currently located at Prudom and Main across from the Native American restaurant Saucy Calf, will expand into a new store eastward, near Family Dollar.

When local restaurant The Dirty Laundry expressed interest in a small storefront featuring Department of Natural Resources (DNR) products from both Butcher House Meats and Pawhuska’s Harvest Land farm, Bayro said she’d make sure the Nation knows that if they ever wanted to sell products in that way, the city would publicize it. “That’s something I’d never thought about that type of growth [for Harvest Land and Butcher House] but making sure that’s noticeable is very easy to do.”

Susan Bayro, Osage, is the new mayor of Pawhuska. The first Osage elected to the position. Osage News 2022 File Photo

She was the first of her family to go to graduate school and grew up on her family allotment land from 1906. “Our nearest neighbor was a mile away, so growing up with other kids to play with wasn’t the thing.” Instead, she played outdoors, fished and hunted.

With a laugh, she said that she might not explicitly help grow hunting and fishing opportunities, but she plans to bring more derby and family togetherness recreation activities to the city.

She was born at the Indian Hospital in Pawnee and grew up in Pawhuska, but “no one ever saw it coming,” she said of becoming mayor.

“In school, I was always focused to get good grades, to join all the clubs and do that kind of thing because they were available. But this is definitely not a path that anyone would have thought I would have taken.”

Mayor Bayro has set herself up for more success, with both the city and the Nation. But will the magnitude of her work surprise everyone again – or will supporters expectantly predict what she’ll do?

Only the future of Pawhuska can tell.

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Chelsea T. Hicks
Chelsea T. Hickshttps://osagenews.org
Title: Staff Reporter
Email: chelsea.hicks@osagenation-nsn.gov
Languages spoken: English
Chelsea T. Hicks’ past reporting includes work for Indian Country Today, SF Weekly, the DCist, the Alexandria Gazette-Packet, Connection Newspapers, Aviation Today, Runway Girl Network, and elsewhere. She has also written for literary outlets such as the Paris Review, Poetry, and World Literature Today. She is Wahzhazhe, of Pawhuska District, belonging to the Tsizho Washtake, and is a descendant of Ogeese Captain, Cyprian Tayrien, Rosalie Captain Chouteau, Chief Pawhuska I, and her iko Betty Elsey Hicks. Her first book, A Calm & Normal Heart, won the 5 Under 35 Award from the National Book Foundation. She holds an MA from the University of California, Davis, and an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts.
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