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Pinnell wants to work with governor 'as much as we can'

Lt. Gov-elect Matt Pinnell gives his acceptance speech in Oklahoma City last month after winning the lieutenant governor race [Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman]

Lt. Gov-elect Matt Pinnell gives his acceptance speech in Oklahoma City last month after winning the lieutenant governor race [Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma voters recently rejected the idea of a governor and lieutenant governor running on the same ticket, but Lt. Gov.-elect Matt Pinnell said he plans to show voters what that concept could look like.

“I hope that the governor-elect and myself are going to show voters what it would have looked like if you had us on the same ticket, because I think we are going to try to operate that way, working together as much as we can,” he said.

For Pinnell, who begins his first term as lieutenant governor in January, his transition to office has been mostly focused on the agenda of Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt.

“I think my job is to communicate his agenda,” Pinnell said. “We are working really well together, and I think that's refreshing and productive.”

In recent years, the relationship between Oklahoma's governor and lieutenant governor has soured.

Current Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb attempted to distance himself from Gov. Mary Fallin as he ran for her seat, especially as her approval rating remained low.

But Pinnell said Oklahomans should expect the relationship between the two offices to be much improved next year.

"When you have a governor and lieutenant governor swimming in the same direction and championing a shared vision, I think it helps us do our job better, but it's also going to help improve the culture inside the state Capitol,” Pinnell said.

Pinnell, 39, said his office plans to hire up to five staffers, including someone to work closely with the tourism department since the lieutenant governor is chair of the tourism commission.

On Thursday, Pinnell announced Jeff Peters as his chief of staff.

Peters, who currently serves as district director to U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, was a political director for the Oklahoma Republican Party during Pinnell's tenure as state chairman.

In addition to hiring staff, Pinnell said most of his focus is on helping Stitt, including as a member of the governor-elect's transition team and chair of his economic development policy committee.

That committee will help formulate Stitt's economic development agenda, which Pinnell expects to be centered on recruiting jobs to Oklahoma and responding to current employee skill gaps.

"Workforce development is such a huge issue when you are talking about any company looking to come to Oklahoma or stay in Oklahoma," Pinnell said. "This will be an area that Gov.-elect Stitt and I get into the weeds on."

Pinnell also said he plans to be a champion for foster care children and families.

"We have a huge heart for kids in foster care but also those families standing in the gap," said Pinnell, whose own family has taken in foster children. "I don't know exactly what it looks like for me to be involved, but I can tell you I'm going to be pretty involved."

Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›