Great State: Retired Oklahoma mayor turns 100

CANEY, Okla. – She helped keep a small Oklahoma town on the map for years and now she is celebrating her 100th birthday.

Back in 1998 Bessie Withrow was an energetic mayor in a very small Oklahoma town.

“I’d rather live here than any other place I know,” she says while driving her pickup truck through town.

She used to run a grocery store in town with her husband. They both lived here for many years.

In 1995 she became mayor, a job she inherited, then took hold-of with a special kind of vigor.

“It’s a continuous thing,” she says. “You don’t have any certain hours. It’s just a continuous job. Anything that comes up, night or day, you just take care of it.”

The town of Caney had its share of misfortune through the years. Atoka got the county seat. There were a couple of damaging tornadoes, and the population dwindled.

But Mayor Withrow still likes her town’s chances.

Her office has always been the kitchen table of her house on Main Street.

From her kitchen table, Bessie wrote a grant that built a new city hall.

For years, Caney didn’t have a police department. Bessie wrote a grant proposal for that too and received enough money for a police cruiser and two officers.

“I didn’t do it,” she deflects “We all did it.”

Mayor Bessie turned 100 years old this year.

Caney, Oklahoma probably won’t get many looks from industry.

There aren’t any major highway projects or conventions coming to town.

But residents can boast about city government.

Thanks to Mayor Bessie, the view from the mayor’s office still looks pretty good.