Governor picks more men for state jobs
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Monday, July 18, 2011
7/18/11 at 10:25 AM
See the list of Gov. Mary
Fallin’s appointments to
state jobs, commissions
Oklahoma's first female governor hasn't brought a new wave of women with her into state government.
Eighty-five percent of Gov. Mary Fallin's appointments to state jobs, boards and commissions so far have been men, a Tulsa World analysis of Governor's Office records shows.
Of 162 Fallin appointments during her first seven months in office, 25 were of women and 137 were of men. In seven cases, Fallin replaced men appointed by Gov. Brad Henry with women. In 12 cases, she replaced women appointed by Henry with men.
Fallin was more likely to appoint a Democrat to a state position than she was to appoint a woman.
Fallin isn't to blame for those statistics - which are similar to the records of past Oklahoma governors and the governors of many other states - said Sheryl Lovelady, director of the Women's Leadership Initiative at the University of Oklahoma's Carl Albert Center and a longtime advocate of women's political empowerment.
"(Governors) don't appoint women because women don't apply. It's really that simple," Lovelady said. "It's not a bias on the governors' part. It's just that when you're looking at applications, you have far more men ... than women."
A University of Albany study of female appointees in all 50 states found that women represented 6.9 percent of the appointees to policy leading positions in 1997, when Frank Keating was governor. Every other state had a higher percentage of its policy positions held by women.
The study defined policy leaders as top-ranking executive branch leaders appointed by governors, including department heads and top advisers. The World's analysis was based on a broader set of appointments, including everything from the secretary of state's office to members of advisory boards.
In 2007, when Henry was governor, the rate of women in policy leadership roles was up, but only to 27.3 percent. That put the state in 42nd place.
Fallin said she works hard to get as much diversity as possible into her appointments, and she has had some significant successes at placing women in key positions.
She has appointed two women to cabinet posts - Secretary of Education Phyllis Hudecki and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Rita Aragon.
Three of her top aides are women: Denise Northrup, the state's first female chief of staff in the governor's office; Judy Copeland, Fallin's general counsel, and Katie Altshuler, her legislative policy director.
More than half of the governor's staff, including all four members of the legal office, are women.
But, Fallin said, she would like to find more qualified women for the more than 3,000 appointments - many to policy-setting boards and commissions - she will make during her four years in office.
"I certainly try to find the very best and highest qualified person for any position that I'm looking at, but I also recognize that we should always do a better job of trying to have a diverse group," Fallin said.
Fallin takes a personal role in the appointment process, working to recruit possible appointees and searching for lists of people interested in public service. She keeps a 3-inch-thick book of potential talent submitted from chambers of commerce, community leaders and publications of outstanding women and young leaders.
"It's challenging to find the people you want to serve from the standpoint that there are so many (appointments)," Fallin said. Often those appointments require specific expertise and sometimes there are legal restrictions that appointees must live in specific parts of the state.
"I work on it every single week," Fallin said. "We need good people."
There are at least two strong reasons why more women should be taking appointive state jobs, Lovelady said.
First, it's democratic.
It's only important to have more women serving on state boards and commissions if the perspective of half the population and more than half of the work force and electorate are important, she said.
And women, as a group, do have a different perspective on public policy issue than men do, she said.
By and large, they bring different concerns and more collaborative ways of thinking to the table, she said.
Second, women need to be in appointive positions because it is an excellent training ground for moving more women into elective office, she said.
"Women make great legislators and great executives," Lovelady said, but they have to get their foot in the public policy door somewhere.
"The more you are informed about the issues, the more you will be engaged in them," Lovelady said. "This is where policymaking begins."
As part of The Appointment Project, a national effort, Lovelady led a panel that went looking for women for gubernatorial appointive jobs. The project operated in a nonpartisan manner and didn't offer any prioritization or evaluation of the candidates it found.
During the political campaign Fallin and Democrat Jari Askins both supported the project and Lovelady gave the governor's office applications from almost 100 potential appointees in April.
Aragon - Fallin's veterans secretary - represented the governor on the project's board. She said gender is still a legitimate issue in government.
"I wish we were beyond the issue, but we know that women don't apply for those positions," Aragon said. "I think everyone brings their own perspective but ... women for the most part have had very different experiences and therefore they ... bring different perspectives."
Fallin said she knows that it is import that she act as a role model for young women considering a life in public service.
Her own role model was her mother - Mary Jo Copeland.
When Fallin's father, who was then the mayor of Tecumseh, died, Copeland, a lifelong civic volunteer and a working mother, became the town's mayor.
"I always admired how she could work, volunteer her activities and be mayor," Fallin said.
The governor cautioned that she isn't interested in appointing women or men who aren't willing to work hard for the state.
"It's very important that we have quality people who will participate," Fallin said. "I don't want somebody to be a placeholder or just have it on their resume."
If she finds people have taken on positions and aren't doing the job, Fallin said she won't be afraid to ask them to step aside.
The jobs can take a lot of time and effort and are almost always unpaid. The work is often in Oklahoma City or in even more distant parts of the state.
"One of greatest joys in my job is being able to appoint good people ... and being able to put them on a board or commission or task force," she said.
Fallin keeps track of diversity of appointees
A comparison of Gov. Mary Fallin's appointments to state voter registration records shows that more than a quarter of her appointments to state jobs, boards and commissions have gone to Democrats.
Of 137 Fallin appointees for whom voting registration information is available, the governor has appointed 37 Democrats or 27 percent. Of those, 11 were appointees of Gov. Brad Henry who Fallin reappointed.
She also made 11 appointments of registered independents, one of whom was a Henry reappointee. Four of those appointments were of Phyllis Hudecki, Fallin's secretary of education, who serves on several boards. Three others were of retired Maj. Gen. Leo J. Baxter.
Fallin said she works hard to maintain diversity in all ways in the people she appoints to state posts.
She keeps a map in her office with push pins representing the hometowns of all of her appointees to make sure no one part of the state is overrepresented.
Fallin's 162 appointments in her first months in office come from 30 of the state's 77 counties. Oklahoma County had the most appointments, 60. Tulsa County had 20 appointees.
Of 136 appointees for whom ZIP code information was available from voter registration data, the most common ZIP code was 73013 with 10 appointees. That ZIP code corresponds to a portion of Edmond that includes Oklahoma Christian University and Arcadia Lake.
The second most common ZIP code - with seven appointments - was 74136, the portion of Tulsa that includes Southern Hills Country Club and Oral Roberts University.
Among the 137 Fallin appointments who matched voter registrations, the average age was just short of 55. The range of ages was 22 to 77.
Maj. Gen. Rita Aragon - Fallin's veterans secretary - said the governor works hard to bring in a representative sample of Oklahomans, regardless of age, gender, party or region.
"The governor really wants to be able to include everyone across the state in everything she is doing," Aragon said.
How can you get involved?
Gov. Mary Fallin is looking for applicants - men and women - for a wide variety of boards, commissions and task forces.
Applications and instructions are available at tulsaworld.com/serveoklahoma
Applicants should attach a current resume or biography and list the boards or commissions where they would like to serve. Applicants are subject to background checks.
The Women's Leadership Initiative at the University of Oklahoma's Carl Albert Center has a list of panels filled by gubernatorial appointments at tulsaworld.com/appointmentproject
Applicants to the Governor's Office can list multiple groups for potential service.
Applications can be mailed to:
Office of the Governor
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 212
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
Applications also can be faxed to (405) 521-3353 or submitted through the office's website.
Original Print Headline: Governor tabs more men for state jobs
Wayne Greene 918-581-8308
Gov. Mary Fallin: Of 162 appointments during her first seven months in office, 25 were of women and 137 were of men.