Gov. Kevin Stitt is still considering his options concerning the leadership of some of the state’s largest agencies.
This year, the Legislature gave Stitt authority to fire and hire (with Senate confirmation) the directors of state agencies that oversee highways, mental health, juvenile justice, prisons and Medicaid. He already had that authority over the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
So far, Stitt has reaffirmed the position of Steve Buck as executive director of the Office of Juvenile Affairs and has named Tim Gatz to replace retiring transportation Director Mike Patterson.
We have no argument with either choice, which have been confirmed by the Senate.
That leaves the positions of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh, Human Services Director Ed Lake, Mental Health Commissioner Terri White and Health Care Authority CEO Becky Pasternik-Ikard up in the air.
Stitt says he hasn’t made up his mind and is still interviewing potential candidates for the jobs. He could still stick with some or all of the incumbents.
If Stitt decides a change is warranted, he is certainly within his prerogative. The Legislature gave him that authority in law; but, more importantly, the voters gave it to him when they sent him to Oklahoma City to implement a platform for change.
That said, Stitt owes an explanation to the public about why he makes any changes: What the incumbent leaders were and weren’t doing that left him dissatisfied and why he thinks new people will be able to do it better.
In our experience, some of the people the governor is putting under scrutiny have provided excellent, professional leadership for the state during very difficult times.
Change for change’s sake isn’t ever a good plan and, in these cases, could easily represent a step backward. Before Stitt starts shuffling the state bureaucracy’s top leadership, he needs to make sure it makes it better.
Chief Photographer Tom Gilbert went up in a helicopter to show what the flooding looked like on Wednesday afternoon on May 22.