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Tuesday, October 15th, 2019Last Update: Wednesday, August 7th, 2019 12:21:15 PM

Gov. Stitt Establishes Cabinet

By: Constitution Staff

On January 24, Gov. Kevin Stitt issued his first executive order since becoming governor. The executive order created his administration’s official cabinet and assigned various agencies, commissions and boards to each cabinet secretary. The Cabinet is responsible for advising the Governor on the operations and policies of the State government. The cabinet consists of 15 positions.

The new cabinet structure made several changes from the previous cabinet formed by Gov. Mary Fallin.

The previous Secretary of Finance position is now divided into three positions focused on agency accountability, transparency, and modernization. The responsibilities of this role is now spread across the following titles: Secretary of Agency Accountability, Secretary of Budget, and Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services is now divided into two positions. The Stitt administration has a Secretary of Health and Mental Health and a Secretary of Human Services and Early Childhood Initiatives.

The Secretary of Education has been rolled into the Secretary of State title so that this cabinet position can focus on the holistic picture of education while pursuing a collaborative relationship with the elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The previous Secretary of Tourism and Commerce position is now divided into two secretaries, with a new position of Secretary of Tourism and Branding and with a second position that couples workforce development with job recruitment under the Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development.

While the cabinet officers are appointed by the Governor, they must be confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate. The Senate has moved slowly in confirming Gov. Stitt’s appointments to his cabinet, along with heads of state agencies and various boards and commissions. As the middle of April approached, just two of the 66 appointments had been approved. After a new law went into effect that gave the governor the power to hire and fire the heads of five major state agencies, Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat formed a bipartisan working group to study ways to make the Senate confirmation process more robust, rather than approving appointments with little review as has been the practice in the past. With those recommendations in hand, and the May 31 deadline for the end of this year’s legislative session approaching, Treat pledged to move ahead with confirmation at a quicker pace.

Secretary of State and Education

In his first cabinet appointment, Gov. Stitt nominated former state Rep. Michael Rogers as Secretary of State and Education. “Michael Rogers played a leading role in securing an historic pay raise for Oklahoma’s teachers, and his time in leadership makes him uniquely qualified to work with the Legislature on my administration’s policy priorities of Oklahoma,” said Stitt. Rogers was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2014, reelected in 2016, but opted not to seek reelection in 2018. He had a 47% cumulative average on the Oklahoma Conservative Index.

Secretary of Energy and Environment

Gov. Stitt appointed Kenneth Wagner to serve as Secretary of Energy and Environment. At the time of his appointment, Wagner served as the Senior Advisor to the Administrator for Regional and State Affairs at the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Prior to working at the EPA, Wagner served as founding partner and managing partner at the Tulsa law firm Latham, Wagner, Steele & Lehman, P.C. Wagner graduated from the University of Tulsa College of Law in 1993. “During his time at EPA, Ken was at the forefront of our efforts to work more closely with states and tribes to ensure clean air, water, and land for all Americans,” said Stitt.

Secretary of Agriculture

Gov. Stitt nominated Blayne Arthur as Secretary of Agriculture. “Blayne Arthur is a deeply respected leader in Oklahoma agriculture, known for her excellence in public service, her entrepreneurial spirit, and her passion mentoring youth,” said Stitt. Arthur served as the Executive Director of the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation. Prior to her time at the foundation, she worked for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry for 8 years and served as Deputy Commissioner from 2012 to 2016. Alongside her husband and two young children, Arthur also runs a farm and family business, providing show cattle for young future farmers and ranchers involved in 4-H and FFA.

Commerce and Workforce Development

For the new position of Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development, Gov. Stitt appointed Sean Kouplen. He will serve on the governor’s cabinet in an unpaid capacity, casting vision for the Commerce Department and playing a strategic leadership role in recruiting business growth and in the development of Oklahoma’s workforce. Kouplen will continue as Chairman and CEO of Regent Bank in Tulsa. Under Kouplen’s leadership, the bank has grown in size from $72 million to almost $600 million in assets since 2008. Kouplen holds B.S. and M.B.A. degrees from Oklahoma State University.

Secretary of Tourism and Branding

Gov. Stitt appointed Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell to the new position of Secretary of Tourism and Branding. In addition to serving as Secretary of Tourism and Branding, Pinnell will sit on the Department of Commerce executive committee and lead the department’s effort to maximize Oklahoma’s Opportunity Zones, of which 117 have been designated in Oklahoma by the Trump administration. Pinnell was sworn in as the 17th Lieutenant Governor of the State of Oklahoma on January 14. Pinnell also runs a small business with his wife, Lisa, an entrepreneur and inventor. Prior to his election as Lieutenant Governor, Pinnell served as Director of State Parties for the Republican National Committee from 2013 to 2017. He previously served as chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party. He is a graduate of Oral Roberts University with a degree in Advertising.

Secretary of Transportation

Tim Gatz was nominated to be Secretary of Transportation. Gatz has served as the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA) since June of 2016. He previously served as Deputy Director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) from 2013 to 2016. He has more than two decades of service with ODOT, beginning his career with the agency as a Drafting Technician in 1990. Gatz was instrumental in the development of ODOT’s project management methodologies and Eight-year Construction Work Plan. Gatz earned a bachelor's degree in Landscape Architecture from Oklahoma State University in 1989 and is a registered professional landscape architect.

Secretary of Agency Accountability

Gov. Stitt hired John Budd as Chief Operating Officer (COO), a new role in the governor’s office that Stitt campaigned on as a position tasked with diagnosing and helping state agencies deliver efficient, customer-focused services. Stitt also appointed Budd as the Secretary of Agency Accountability. “In my conversation with governors from across the nation, I heard many credit their success to the hiring of a Chief Operating Officer in their administrations, a model not currently implemented in Oklahoma. This new COO role will be key to fulfilling my campaign commitment of delivering efficient, customer-centered government throughout our 120 agencies,” said Stitt.

John Budd was most recently the executive vice president, chief strategy and business development officer for the Oklahoma City-based Sonic, America’s Drive-In. Budd joined Sonic in 2013 after 16 years with the Boston Consulting Group, where he served as a partner and managing director. In that role, he worked with leading companies in the energy, industrial goods, consumer goods, retail, restaurant, and education sectors to help them grow, become more efficient, and provide better customer service. Budd earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He also received his M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He serves on the Board for the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation and is the incoming Chair of the Oklahoma Academy for State Goals.

Secretary of Budget

Former state Senator Mike Mazzei was appointed to the newly created cabinet position of the Secretary of Budget. Mazzei will be responsible for preparing and finalizing the governor’s annual state budget, providing oversight of its implementation, and giving counsel for the state’s financial strategy. Mazzei is the president of Tulsa Wealth Advisors and is a certified financial planner. Mazzei served in the Oklahoma Senate from 2004 to 2016. During his time in the legislature, Mazzei chaired the Senate Finance Committee for 10 years. His major accomplishments as a state senator include: fixing the broken pensions system in the state, eliminating the special retirement benefit for elected officials, authoring the Quick Action Closing Fund, and authoring the 21st Century Quality Jobs Program. During his time in the Oklahoma Senate, he had a 64% cumulative average on the Oklahoma Conservative Index. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from George Mason University and a Master of Science in Personal Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning.

Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration

David Ostrowe was nominated to the new position of Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration. Ostrowe will serve on the governor’s cabinet in an unpaid capacity, placing a strategic emphasis on digital transformation in the delivery of services across all agencies. He will also provide oversight of state financial institutions, similarly executed by the cabinet title of “Secretary of Finance” seen in the previous administration.

Ostrowe will continue as the President and CEO of O&M Restaurant Group. In 1999, Ostrowe launched his first business in Oklahoma City. That business grew from a one-man shop to what it is now a $65 million, multi-unit and multi-state operation with 1,000 employees. Previously, Ostrowe was a member of Burger King Corporation’s Restaurant Counsel for eight years and Chair Emeritus for “The Growth Group,” a Burger King franchisee association made up of large quick service restaurant developers throughout the United States. Ostrowe is also a past Professor of Business, teaching two to three classes per semester at OU’s Price Business School.

Secretary of Native American Affairs

Gov. Stitt appointed Lisa J. Billy as Secretary of Native American Affairs. Billy currently serves in the Chickasaw Nation Legislature, a seat she has held since 2016. She previously served in the Chickasaw Nation Legislature from 1996 to 2002. She also served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 2004 to 2016. During her time in the Oklahoma House, she had a 56% cumulative average on the Oklahoma Conservative Index. She formed the Native America Caucus in the Oklahoma Legislature in 2006. She holds a B.A. from Northeastern State University and an M.Ed from the University of Oklahoma.

Secretary of Public Safety

Gov. Stitt named Chip Keating to serve as the Secretary of Public Safety. Anthony Francis “Chip” Keating III, 39, served as an Oklahoma State Trooper from May 2001 to August 2004 and is a Director and Gubernatorial appointee of the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Retirement System. He has been a principal with Keating Investments, a real estate and oil and gas investment company, since March 2010. He was the Real Estate Development Manager for Chesapeake Energy Corporation in Oklahoma City from March 2007 to March 2010. While at Chesapeake, he closed and transacted over $850 million in real estate transactions ranging from corporate headquarters, sale leasebacks, field offices, investment properties, and raw land in urban natural gas plays for drill sites. Prior to joining Chesapeake, Keating worked as a commercial real estate broker with Trammell Crow Company from August 2004 to March 2007. While at Trammell Crow Company, he specialized in tenant representation and investment sales. Keating received a Bachelor of Business Administration from Southern Methodist University. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Southern Methodist University. He is the son of former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating.

Secretary of Science and Innovation

Dr. Kayse Shrum will serve as the Secretary of Science and Innovation. She earned a doctor of osteopathic medicine degree from the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine and has completed executive leadership and management training programs at Harvard University and Stanford University. She joined the medical school faculty at the OSU Center for Health Sciences (OSU-CHS) in 2002. In 2011, she was named provost of OSU-CHS and dean of the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine and served in that capacity until her promotion to president in 2013. President Shrum holds the George Kaiser Family Foundation Chair in Medical Excellence and Service and the Saint Francis Health System Endowed Chair of Pediatrics.

Under her leadership, student enrollment at OSU-CHS has more than doubled as new academic programs have been established to meet the healthcare workforce needs of Oklahoma. She also spearheaded the creation of Oklahoma’s largest and most technologically advanced hospital simulation center. A strong supporter of collaborative partnerships, President Shrum worked with Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker and his administration to establish the Nation’s first tribally affiliated medical school, the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation. President Shrum has also launched award-winning high school recruiting programs like Operation Orange and Blue Coat to White Coat, established the Rural Medical Track curriculum, and expanded the number of residency training programs in Oklahoma by securing support from the Oklahoma Legislature, Oklahoma Health Care Authority and Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust.

Secretary of Health and Mental Health

Gov. Stitts nominated Jerome Loughridge as Secretary of Health and Mental Health. Loughridge is a native of Duncan, Oklahoma, who graduated with a B.A. from Baylor University in 1995. Following a year at Children’s Memorial Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, Loughridge attended Harvard University where he earned a Master of Public Policy degree in 1998. In 2000, Loughridge became Chief of Staff at Baylor University, serving on the executive council of the institution and helping drive Baylor 2012, the university’s ten-year vision. In 2003, he was selected to the White House Fellowship, the Nation’s preeminent program for leadership and public service.

Loughridge began a career in the energy sector in 2006 and has maintained executive leadership positions in the oilfield services segment since. He first served as Chief Operating Officer of Great White Energy Services. In 2009, Loughridge became President of Black Mesa Energy Services, and since 2012, he has served as President of Great Plains Oilfield Rental.

A Spanish speaker, Loughridge maintains an ongoing commitment to mission and humanitarian activity, regularly traveling to Central America and East Africa and where he has taught in universities and remote villages and has helped coordinate rural healthcare delivery through temporary clinics.

Secretary of Human Services and Early Childhood Initiatives

Steve Buck was nominated to serve as the Secretary of Human Services and Early Childhood Initiatives. Buck will be responsible for 34 agencies, boards and commissions, including the Department of Human Services and Oklahoma Juvenile Affairs (OJA). He previously served the state as Secretary of Health and Human Services under the Fallin administration, and as OJA’s executive director, Buck has been responsible for the overall management of the agency’s operated and contracted programs and services. He works directly with the agency’s governing board to facilitate agency priorities, planning and operational performance. Before joining OJA, Buck served nine years as deputy commissioner for communications and prevention at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Prior to that, he worked 10 years for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, in multiple roles, including national director of state policy and executive director of NAMI Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, he is a graduate of Oklahoma State University with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and a masters in administration leadership from the University of Oklahoma.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Military

Gov. Stitt’s final cabinet position appointment was Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Militay. That position was left open for a time after Stitt's original pick for that post, Brian Brurud, withdrew his nomination. Stitt later appointed retired Air Force Gen. Ben Robinson to the post. Gen. Robinson is the Owner/President of Sentry One LLC, an aerospace industry consulting company specializing in a wide spectrum of expertise from military command and control operations to the growth and sustainment of American aerospace through investments in workforce development, business development and leadership. Prior to his current positions, he served as the Executive Director of the Boeing Aerospace Operations, Oklahoma City Boeing Site. Robinson was responsible for supporting the programs and functions assigned to the Oklahoma City site, a role that covered over 2,100 employees in 70 locations worldwide.

He retired from active duty with the U.S. Air Force as a Brigadier General in 2002. His nearly 34 years of active duty service includes combat operations in both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army. He commanded two flying wings, a flying group and a space center. He was a Director on the Air Staff in Washington DC and the Vice Commander of 8th Air Force. He held a command pilot rating with nearly 5,000 flying hours and over 150 combat missions. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Management from Eastern New Mexico University and a master’s degree in Industrial Management from Central Michigan University. In addition, he completed a one year course of study with MIT as an International Relations Fellow.

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