Oklahoma governor-elect begins transition, seeks mix of experience on his team
Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt said Wednesday that Oklahomans should expect substantial change in the way state government operates, how the budget is crafted and the role a governor plays in directing state agencies.
With nearly 1.2 million votes cast in Tuesday's election, the most ever in an Oklahoma gubernatorial race, Stitt beat Democrat Drew Edmondson by 12 percentage points, a significant margin that surprised many political observers, even those within both campaigns.
Stitt said he viewed his commanding win as a mandate to shake up state government, delivering the change he promised on the campaign trail.
"People are demanding change — they are so ready for an outsider, a fresh set of eyes," Stitt told The Oklahoman.
"To me, we've got some structural problems and immediately, I think we have (to address) some accountability issues on how we deliver services. This (state) is a $20 billion budget, we have to do a better job of getting our dollars into the classroom, into the education system, making sure we have high standards and getting money into our roads and bridges and our health care system.
"But we also have to set up the policies that are going to be pro-business, so we can actually diversify our economy and start growing like other states around us."
A founder and former CEO of a Tulsa mortgage firm, Stitt ran on a pledge to bring a business-management strategy to the governor's office.
With less than 10 weeks before his inauguration, Stitt said he plans to begin naming members of his transition team within a week, along with other positions in his administration.
Calls to leaders
On Wednesday, Stitt made several phone calls to state and federal government leaders. He also visited the state Capitol to meet with House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, according to Stitt's campaign.
Prior to his Jan. 14 inauguration, Stitt said he will research how state agencies are managed in other states, pulling ideas he likes to include in his strategy for Oklahoma.
"The biggest priority for him is going to be government reform," said Donelle Harder, spokeswoman for the Stitt campaign. "He is going to come up with a detailed plan on how we can deliver more accountability in our state government."
A transition office on the first floor of the state Capitol became available to Stitt's team on Wednesday morning.
The transition office will serve as Stitt's office for the next year while scheduled renovations are completed on the current governor's office.
As soon as Gov. Mary Fallin's staff moves out, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services is closing the office so Capitol renovation work can begin, said Michael McNutt, Fallin's spokesman.
Stitt and his family also have security details provided by the Department of Public Safety.
State troopers were present at both Edmondson and Stitt watch parties on Tuesday night, but mobilized around Stitt's family as soon as the race was called, according to DPS.
Tuesday's election saw 56 percent turnout among Oklahoma voters, the largest in the last nine gubernatorial elections, according to the state Election Board.
Stitt said he was eager to work for the support of those who didn't vote for him and said he was already reaching out to Democratic leaders.
"I'm not a partisan person. I've been reaching out to the Republicans and the Democrats," Stitt said. "I'm a pragmatist. I just see a problem, and I want to go fix it. Let national politics be partisan, but not in Oklahoma, not on my watch."