Tahlequah city councilors on Monday approved the hiring of Wayne Ryals as the interim street commissioner through May of 2017.

Ryals, a former city employee, educator, and current instructor at Indian Capital Technology Center, is expected to begin in June. Assistant City Administrator Kevin Smith said Ryals’ start date will give him time to learn about the city’s street projects before Street Commissioner Mike Corn retires July 31.

Ryals received unanimous approval from the council.

Before Ryals was hired, Corn took to the podium and formally addressed the council.

He thanked the council, his street department employees, and the city’s residents for supporting him for more than four decades with the city.

“It’s with a heavy heart I do this, but I know it’s my time to go,” Corn said.

He choked up as he read from his prepared letter, which announced his retirement; afterward, councilors acknowledged Corn’s time with the city, and he received a standing ovation and applause from those at the meeting.

Mayor Jason Nichols also took time Monday night to thank Ward 4 Councilor Linda Spyres and Ward 3 Councilor Maurice Turney, who were both serving their last meeting as elected officials.

Spyres thanked the city for its support, and said the new councilors – Joshua Bliss, who will replace her, and Stephen Highers, who will replace Turney – will take Tahlequah to “new horizons.”

Turney also thanked the city for its support for his eight years on the council. He said he decided not to run because of his age - 86 - and the age he would be at the end of another four-year term.

“I didn’t want to be known as the senile city councilor sitting up there that can’t make decisions, so I decided I would retire and let some of the younger people take this,” Turney said. “I’ve enjoyed being here, serving the people of Tahlequah, and I look forward to seeing good things continue here in Tahlequah.”

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