Men Making a Difference

June honors 3 men who are changing OKC for the better

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt

As Mayor of Oklahoma City - America's 25th largest city - Mayor David Holt has helped usher in many of the changes that citizens enjoy today.

In April 2018, David Holt took office as Oklahoma City’s 36th Mayor after being elected with 78.5 percent of the vote. It was the largest vote percentage achieved by a non-incumbent candidate for mayor since 1947.

It made Holt the youngest Mayor of Oklahoma City since 1923, the first Native American mayor of Oklahoma City, and at the time of his election, the youngest mayor of a U.S. city with more than 500,000 residents.

"I'm sure there's a lot of things I could say, but to keep it simple - I like helping people and that's what draws me to public service," said Mayor Holt.

"I value honesty and truth, being kind, being willing to compromise. I guess I want to be the kind of public servant I would vote for, and at this point in my life I don't care at all about political party, I care about someone who stands for decency, empathy, thoughtfulness, civility, integrity, compassion, courage, and a sense of obligation."

Under his watch, Holt helped create and pass MAPS4, a debt-free public improvement program funded by a temporary penny sales tax that will raise a projected $978 million over eight years.

"I'm blessed to be in a position with lots of emotional rewards. I guess if I had to pick one thing from the last three eventful years, it would be the development and passage of MAPS 4," Holt said.

"Getting to craft a billion-dollar package for my city that addresses 16 different challenges and opportunities is amazing.  And MAPS 4 is so ambitious, I'll cross its path across OKC for the rest of my life. That's incredibly meaningful and I feel very fortunate to have been a part of it."

Holt is married to Rachel, the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs, a large state agency with an important charge. They are parents to George (11) and Maggie (9). 

Mayor Holt had already served a U.S. House Speaker, a U.S. President, a Lt. Governor and Members of the U.S. House and Senate when he became chief of staff to his predecessor, Mayor Mick Cornett, at age 26. He served five years in that position before being elected to the Oklahoma Senate, where he served almost eight years.

"I have two jobs and a family, and one of those jobs includes the welfare of 650,000 human beings," Holt said." I think the most important things in life are the personal things.  It's your family that will be at your deathbed, not all the people you work with professionally, no matter how good those relationships are. What matters is family, and I'm blessed to have married a beautiful, brilliant woman who is enormously successful in her professional life and a great mother as well. And we have brought two amazing kids into the world."

Matt Payne, Co-Founder of Prairie Surf Media  

Oklahoma native Matt Payne is co-founder and co-CEO of the new Prairie Surf Media, a locally based production studio focused on multi-platform content creation.

A successful filmmaker with an impressive list of credits and achievements across a multitude of creative businesses, Payne started Prairie Surf Media with Rachel Cannon, an entertainment executive, entrepreneur, accomplished television actress, writer and producer. 

After a 15-year stint in Los Angeles, where he worked in both television and film, Emmy award-nominated Payne is a writer, a documentary filmmaker, an award-winning travel photographer and writer, public speaker and adventurer.

While in Hollywood, Payne had a successful writing career. He wrote episodic television on such hit series as CBS’ “Vegas” and “Defenders,” and TNT’s “Memphis Beat,” and additionally was part of the production team on Fox’s “24” and CBS’ “Without A Trace.” 

He and his wife returned to Oklahoma City a few years ago after the birth of their first daughter to take advantage of all the good Oklahoma has to offer. 

Payne and his long-time friend and partner in Prairie Surf Media, Rachel Cannon, wanted to shape the rapidly expanding entertainment industry in Oklahoma. Prairie Surf Media, housed now in the former downtown Cox Convention Center, has kickstarted the growth of streaming, television and motion picture production in Oklahoma. 

“The Prairie Surf sign going up was an extremely cool moment for me. Our whole business has been set up through the pandemic so to finally have a group of people on hand to celebrate the film industry’s presence in downtown OKC was a big moment,” Payne said. 

“When I moved back to Oklahoma in 2015, I really had no idea what I was going to do with my life. Rather than try to define myself by what I had been -  a screenwriter- I decided to take some chances. I moved to a farm, started teaching at OCU and took up photography. One thing led to another and eventually, I became a far more creative and happy person. Now I have two little girls and hope that I can provide an amazing life for them both.”

Through partnerships with premier industry vendors like Cinelease and Panavision, Prairie Surf Studios provides access to Grip and Lighting, Cameras, Heavy Equipment and Expendables in-house to meet your production needs.

Prairie Surf also provides access to City and State Leadership as well as the Oklahoma Film and Music Office to ensure ease of doing business within our state.

“Prairie Surf Studios is without a doubt the culmination of all of my talents and passion. I think of myself as an equal part city builder, educator, traveler and filmmaker. Our business feeds into all of those components,” Payne said. “Creating a space where storytellers can thrive in a city that I love is really cool.”

The enthusiastic, adventurous, filmmaker-entrepreneur spends his downtime currently living on a farm outside of Oklahoma City with his wife Meg, his two-year-old daughter Maisie, a dog named Jasper, six horses, two cats, two donkeys, three chickens, two pigs and a rooster named Wayne.

Joe Pellow of Pellow Outreach

Joe Pellow grew up in Edmond, and thanks to the work ethic instilled by his father, along with the mentorship and guidance of Jim Riley and his outreach, helped in the formation of Pellow Outreach.

Pellow Outreach is an organization designed to help men find a better way of living. Through the sober living homes, Pellow Outreach teaches men who are on the road to recovery how to be the best person they can be. 

“It has strong ties to Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as encouraging men to practice their faith.  The program we offer in the homes includes attending AA meetings, doing chores weekly around the home, and attending a religious service of their choice on Sundays,” said Pellow.

Through “Accountability in Action,” the men in the home are always making sure that everyone is staying on a positive path, and lifting each other up. The program also includes weekly house meetings, where the men of the house gather to discuss how their week has been and can  seek advice from others in areas in which they may be struggling. 

“Through this system, we have seen that men who stay one year or more in our homes have an 84% chance of staying sober long term,” said Pellow.

Pellow was among those who strugged with drugs and alcohol. Eighteen years ago, he was living in a 4,000 square foot home, with no running water or electricity. He was taking water from the swimming pool to flush the toilets and was facing a prison sentence.  

“When I share that story with families of the men in my program, it is always met with surprise that I lived that lifestyle. It also helps me to get closer with the men in my program, as they see that I share similarities with them and there isn’t anything they are going through that I haven’t been through myself,” Pellow said.

“My most significant accomplishment was getting and staying sober. It is a monumental task for those that struggle with addiction, and it is a journey that has no destination. We deal with an enemy that is cunning, baffling, and powerful. Without a Higher Power and the love of my friends, family, and the recovery community, I truly believe I would be in jail or dead today.”

Pellow said his main goal today is to help men realize their full potential and to continue to lift these men up and let them know they are loved and they matter.

“My important influence is Jim Riley, who helped me when I was at that point. Through his love and support, I have been uplifted and given the opportunity to return that love to others,” he said.

“During this last year with the COVID pandemic, I struggled like so many others in the country with the loss of the love of my life, Lise, due to complications from COVID. If not for the love of my family and the community, I do not know how I would’ve gotten through such a trying time.”

Pellow and the Pellow Outreach continues to make a difference in the lives of men who are struggling and trying to become sober. For Pellow, working in the recovery community in Oklahoma City is his passion.

“As cliche as this may sound to some, recovery is my passion,’ he said. “I have been blessed to be able to work with individuals in the community, and that has turned my passion into a career.”


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