Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Governor Mary Fallin Names Two New Cabinet Secretaries, Amends Cabinet Structure

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today announced the appointment of two new cabinet secretaries as part of a larger realignment of her cabinet. Dr. Robert Sommers, the current director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, was named secretary of education and workforce development.  Deby Snodgrass, the executive director of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, was named to the new position of secretary of tourism.

Today’s appointments came as Fallin made several changes to her cabinet, consolidating some positions to deliver better organizational structure, or creating new ones to reflect her priorities. 

Cabinet Reorganization

In an executive order filed today (see attached document), Fallin renamed secretary of education, “secretary of education and workforce development.” Sommers begins serving in this new position immediately.

“Good schools help drive economic growth and job creation because they provide the education and training ground for our workforce,” Fallin said. “I have asked Dr. Sommers to focus his expertise on policies that will give students – including adult students – the skills they need to find and keep the high-skill, high-paying jobs that are increasingly coming to Oklahoma.”

"Raising the bar in education and improving our workforce means supporting and implementing the reform efforts already enacted by the legislature and being pursued by the State Department of Education, Oklahoma CareerTech, and Higher Education. Dr. Sommers has long been an advocate for the kind of accountability measures implemented in Oklahoma, and I look forward to working closely with him in his new cabinet level position."

Snodgrass’ cabinet post, secretary of tourism, is also a new position. Fallin said its creation reflects the importance of tourism to Oklahoma’s economy.

“Travel and tourism dollars generate over a billion dollars in annual revenue for Oklahoma’s state and local governments and help to support almost 80,000 jobs. Deby Snodgrass has ensured the Department of Tourism and Recreation is a productive and responsible partner to the private sector as it works to promote and support this industry. As a cabinet secretary, she will ensure that the tourism industry continues to be well-represented in the highest levels of the executive branch.” 

Snodgrass begins serving in her cabinet position immediately.

Fallin also combined the positions of secretary of energy and secretary of environment, creating a new “secretary of energy and environment.” She has 30 days to fill this position with either a permanent or an interim cabinet secretary.

“Good energy policy is good environmental policy,” said Fallin. “The policies being pursued by this administration will not only help deliver more affordable energy and create more Oklahoma jobs, they will also deliver a healthier environment and cleaner air and water. The job of our secretary of energy and environment will be to focus on policies that encourage the production of Oklahoma energy and the good stewardship of Oklahoma’s environment.”

Finally, the executive order combines the secretary of information technology position with the secretary of finance position currently held by Preston Doerflinger, who will assume the expanded title and role of “secretary of finance, administration and information technology.” Former Secretary of Information Technology Alex Pettit will continue to serve as state chief information officer.

Fallin said the move to expand the secretary of finance’s title and responsibilities reflects the reorganizations that have occurred under government consolidation. With the former Office of State Finance now consolidated with several agencies to form the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, the secretary of finance – also the director of OMES – now plays an expanded role.

More on Secretary of Education and Workforce Development Robert Sommers
(Provided by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education)
On April 1, 2013, Robert Sommers became the seventh state director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.
Sommers previously served as CEO and managing member of Carpe Diem Learning Systems, an organization created to replicate the high-performing, cost-effective Carpe Diem personalized blended learning model.
For nine years, Sommers served as CEO and superintendent of an Ohio career-technical district, Butler Technology and Career Development Schools, in Hamilton, Ohio. Under his leadership, the district doubled in size, became the highest performing career-technical district in Ohio and became known for creative educational programs, including blended learning schools. The district served more than 26,000 high schools through adult students and provided customized training to companies.
For 15 years, Sommers served in several capacities with the Ohio Department of Education. He served as an agricultural supervisor, state adviser for the FFA, assistant director of program evaluation services and associate director for career-technical education.
Sommers’ teaching experience includes agricultural education in London, Ohio.
Sommers served as Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s education policy adviser covering elementary through university education policy. During his tenure, Ohio implemented reforms for increased school performance transparency, teacher evaluation, school choice, digital education options and failing school transformation.
While in Detroit, he served as CEO of Cornerstone Charter Schools, where he designed the Cornerstone Health High School, a blended learning school that opened in fall 2012.
Sommers earned a doctorate in educational administration and leadership from The Ohio State University, Columbus, where he also completed his master’s degree in agricultural education. He earned a bachelor of science degree in education at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, and has received several education and business awards in Ohio. He has also served in leadership positions in numerous state and national organizations, including chairman of the Performance Taskforce for the National Association of Career and Technical Education.
More on Secretary of Tourism Deby Snodgrass(Provided by the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation)

Deby Snodgrass has more than 30 years experience in marketing and public policy in the private sector. Prior to accepting the Executive Director’s post at the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, Snodgrass served as Senior Director of Public Affairs for Chesapeake Energy. In that role, she developed and executed strategic political and public policy initiatives, managed both state and federal political action committees and monitored federal, state and local issues. Previous to her tenure at Chesapeake, Snodgrass was a founding partner of the public policy and research firm Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates. She has been a frequent guest speaker and has taught policy and strategy at various national and international venues. 

Snodgrass was also a founding member of the Board of Directors for Friends of the Mansion, Inc. and is a former co-chair of "Opening Night," Oklahoma City's annual New Year's Eve celebration. She served eight years on Oklahoma's Capitol Preservation Commission and is a former board member for the Arts Council of Oklahoma City. She currently serves as a member of the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority and as an ex-officio board member of Allied Arts, and the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority. 

Snodgrass also serves on the Oklahoma Compensation and Unclassified Positions Review Board and the Governor's Remuneration Study Group.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Weekly Newspaper Column - Schedule for Town Hall Meetings Set

For me, one of the best parts about serving as an elected official is the interaction I get to have with so many people across and around my legislative district. It truly is an honor to serve the people of District 27 and to be their voice at the Capitol in Oklahoma City. I am always looking for new ways to listen to the needs and desires of my constituents. I am excited to announce the schedule for a series of town hall meetings later this summer. Formatted much like the Tuesday Talks that Congressman James Lankford holds, these town hall meetings will provide an opportunity to share information on what is happening inside state government and hear the concerns and thoughts of my constituents.
Each town hall meeting will consist of a brief time for me to share details of issues being looked at in Oklahoma City, and a time of questions and answers from the audience. My hope is that those in attendance will leave with a better understanding of what your state government is working on, and that I will know better how to represent you at the Capitol. This follows my promise to provide more accountable and accessible government to the people of House District 27. This is not a campaign stop, but rather an opportunity for an elected official to better hear his constituents.”

The locations, dates, and times for these town hall meetings can be found below:

  • Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. - Little Axe - Little Axe Community Center
  • Aug. 16 at 11 a.m. - Tribbey - Tribbey Senior Citizens Center
  • Aug. 21 at 12 p.m. - Pink - Pink Senior Citizens Center
  • Aug. 22 at 12 p.m. - Macomb - Macomb Masonic Lodge
  • Aug. 22 at 6:30 p.m. - Tecumseh – Tecumseh City Hall Auditorium
  • Aug. 29 at 6:30 p.m. - Asher – Asher Town Trustee's Chamber
  • Sept. 5 at 6:30 p.m. -  Maud – Maud Town Trustee's Chamber

I look forward to visiting with everyone! I encourage you to come, even if you aren't well versed in politics. Knowing what your local elected officials believe in and what they are working on is important. I know that we all lead busy lives, but I hope you will set one of these evenings aside when I am in your community! Come and let me know how I can better serve you. That is why I am here!

Any questions you have can be directed towards my office at: 405-557-7349, or by email at: Josh.Cockroft@okhouse.gov. Also follow me on Facebook: Representative Josh Cockroft, and on Twitter: @VoteCockroft27. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Weekly Newspaper Column - State Employee Pay Raises

Looking back at the progress that was made this past legislative session it is easy to see the successes, but I also realize that there is always more to accomplish. We should never be willing to accept the status quo as a state. Over this summer, lawmakers are going to be outlining some of the major issues that we will deal with next year. This time will be filled with interim studies and task forces to make sure the policies that we look at are in the best interest of Oklahoma.

One issue left undone this session was a pay raise for State employees. State employees have gone almost a decade without any sort of pay raise, while at the same time their insurance premiums and cost of living have been raised significantly. This year, unfortunately, the issue became a political football that was passed back and forth between legislative chambers. As session drew to a close it actually looked like some sort of deal might be struck between leadership of the House, Senate, and the Governor’s office that would provide a pay raise. Unfortunately, politics prevailed and nothing was done. This issue will be a major topic of discussion throughout the interim as we try to work a deal out. This next year is an election year, so it will be extremely interesting to see what happens on both sides.

Throughout the course of the session I voted for some type of pay raise to our state workers at least four times. I personally believe we owe it to many of our fine employees and the jobs that they do. As we study this issue even more this summer, I do believe we need to visit several different aspects of how our state employees would be given this raise. Our state currently has a merit system that is used to some extent, but I believe needs to be reviewed. We must make sure that instead of blindly giving a pay raise to the tune of millions of dollars, we quantify that this pay raise is deserved for every position. In my discussions with state workers they could not agree more. If we have a merit system, let’s make sure it is used properly and it is effective. Despite what is commonly taught, not everyone is a “winner”, and if you do not deserve a pay raise then you should not receive one. The reason we call it a merit system is because it is based on earning rewards. When we do that for our state, everyone wins. As stated before, it will be extremely interesting to see what happens.

It is my honor to serve you! If I can ever be of assistance to you, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Email me at: Josh.Cockroft@okhouse.gov. Call my office at (405) 557-7349. Follow me on Facebook: Representative Josh Cockroft, and on Twitter: @VoteCockroft27.    

Monday, July 1, 2013

Rep. Cockroft Praises Recovery Efforts, Urges Patience

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Josh Cockroft issued the following statement today in praise of the storm recovery efforts that have come to the aid of the communities in his district and urging his constituents to be patient:

“I would like to thank all agencies, volunteer groups, organizations and individuals for their tireless work in the recovery and relief efforts for the Little Axe and Bethel Acres areas,” said Cockroft. “A lot of progress has been made. I can not say enough about the county and municipal workers in both Pottawatomie and Cleveland counties for their dedication to the effort. I know it has been six weeks since the storms and that there are still many individuals who need help. I would urge them to be patient as the extent of the damage means that this is a slow process. No one has been forgotten and help is still available. I have been on the ground working since day one and know personally how many people and groups are still offering their services. If you are still in need of assistance, contact any of the local churches or the county offices and they will find help. I could not be more proud of the communities in my district that have pulled together in this effort. Though this is a difficult time, it has shown how great of a State and community we are.”

Public Assistance Approved for 16 Counties Impacted by May Storms

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved public assistance for 16 counties hard hit by last month’s storms. Fallin had submitted a request for assistance in those counties on Wednesday, June 26.

The designation delivers federal funding to assist municipalities, counties, schools and rural electric cooperatives with eligible infrastructure repairs, debris removal and costs associated with responding to the tornadoes, straight-line winds, flooding and severe storms that occurred between May 18 and June 2.

Counties granted public assistance today include Atoka, Canadian, Coal, Hughes, Latimer, Nowata, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Pittsburg, Pushmataha and Seminole. Additional aid was also granted for Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma and Pottawatomie counties, which were already provided public assistance related to debris removal and emergency response costs.

In these counties, the storms resulted in an estimated $40 million in uninsured infrastructure losses, and debris removal and response costs. Other counties can be added to the declaration as additional damages are identified.

Individual assistance is already granted for nine counties for damages to homes and businesses related to the storms.