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Stitt meets with cabinet, names new tourism secretary

Gov. Kevin Stitt held his first cabinet meeting Thursday, telling the senior team he wanted detailed strategies and defined metrics of success for the various state agencies and departments they will oversee.

All 10 of Stitt's secretary nominees were in attendance, including David Ostrowe, the president of a large restaurant group who is expected to be nominated as secretary of digital transformation and administration.

Also in attendance was Tim Gatz, the current executive director of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, who is expected to be nominated as secretary of transportation.

The governor plans to nominate a total of 15 secretaries. Each will require state Senate confirmation.

Secretary of commerce and workforce development nominee Sean Kouplen, who is also CEO of Regent Bank in Tulsa, said Thursday's cabinet meeting reminded him of the executive meetings at his own company.

β€œIt was very focused, very strategic, very goal-oriented and it felt very much like a business,” Kouplen said. "The governor is treating us like CEOs of our area and pushing us to think bigger and develop very specific metrics that can be reported back to him on a regular basis."

Also in attendance was Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs executive director Steven Buck who is expected to be named secretary of human services.

Following the meeting, Stitt announced that Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell will become his secretary of tourism and branding, a new secretary position he created by separating tourism and commerce.

"The lieutenant governor is going to be a fantastic salesperson for the state," Stitt said.

Pinnell said one of his top priorities will be to lead a new branding campaign across state agencies to attract more tourists to Oklahoma and improve the state's image among its citizens.

"You have to play to your strengths as a state and tourism is a strength," Pinnell said. "It is a growing economic force in Oklahoma."

State tax revenue from tourism has grown by 20 percent since 2010, according to Pinnell.

Stitt has not yet selected an executive director for the Department of Tourism and Recreation, a position currently held by Dick Dutton.

"We are going to interview the person who is there, but we are also interviewing 10 other people," Stitt said. "If I didn't want any change to happen I would just keep appointing the same people. But Oklahomans want me to make sure I'm hiring the right people.”

Pinnell will also sit on the Department of Commerce executive committee and play a key role in promoting the state's 117 federal Opportunity Zones, which provide some federal tax breaks for investors in certain distressed neighborhoods.

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Gov. Kevin Stitt [AP photo]

Gov. Kevin Stitt [AP photo]

<figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - Gov. Kevin Stitt [AP photo]" title="Gov. Kevin Stitt [AP photo]"><figcaption>Gov. Kevin Stitt [AP photo]</figcaption></figure>
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 ›