Editor’s Notebook: Governor Fallin calls special elections, forms veterans healthcare outreach, announces appointments of Mish, Lopez, Fitzgerald

OKLAHOMA CITY – From an editor’s notebook, Governor Mary Fallin announces special elections to fill two legislative vancacies, forms a veterans pilot program, and picks three Oklahomans for important positions.

On Monday (March 27), Fallin ordered special elections for state Senate District 44 and state House District 46.
The filing period for both is May 1-3. The vacancy in S.D. 44 was created by last week’s resignation of Ralph Shortey. While others may jump into the race, so far the announced candidates include immigration lawyer Michael Brooks-Jimenez, a Democrat, and legislative staff veteran Joe Griffin, A Republican. According to a press release from Fallin’s office, “The special primary election is set for July 11 and the special general election is scheduled for Sept. 12. In the event a special primary election is not necessary, the special general election will be July 11.”
The House District 46 vacancy was created when state Rep. Scott Martin, R-Norman set May 31 as his resignation date. Although he will stay in office through the end of the spring legislative session, legal provisions allowed Fallin to set the special election date quickly.

Also on March 27, the chief executive disclosed establishment of the Oklahoma Veterans Pilot Program, described as “a private/public initiative to develop a comprehensive health care access and delivery system for the state’s veterans.” Her office said it “will be spearheaded by the Force 50 Brigade and its two subgroups, Victory Company and the County Chairpersons Leadership Team.”
Fallin a press release, “The Oklahoma Veterans Pilot Program is an important effort to identify best practices in healthcare delivery to ensure we offer the highest quality of care to our veterans. Our veterans have made incredible sacrifices for our freedoms, and the least we owe them is superior healthcare that is easily accessible for all. I applaud the formation of the Force 50 Brigade and its subgroups, Victor Company and the County Chairperson Leadership Team, to spread the word about this critical initiative.”
The public/private program will, “develop a comprehensive transitional system of care designed to deliver accessible quality healthcare to veterans statewide. The system will cover healthcare services in mental health, home health, nursing care, rehabilitative services, and coordinated access to physician services, laboratory services, pharmacy services and tele-health capability.”
“It is our hope that the outreach program being implemented under the Force 50 Brigade and led by the Oklahoma Veterans Leadership Team will encourage our Oklahoma veterans population to get involved with our efforts to improve healthcare opportunities to all veterans,” said Myles Deering, director of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs. 

On March 22, Fallin named Dr. Jeanetta Calhoun Mish as the Sooner State’s poet laureate for 2017-18. Mish is the director at The Red Earth Low-Residency Creative Writing MFA Program, based at Oklahoma City University.
“Dr. Jeanetta Calhoun Mish is a poet, writer, teacher and scholar who shares thoughtful and meaningful insights about Oklahoma through her works,” said Fallin. “I selected Dr. Mish because of her immense passions for poetry and our great state. I am confident Dr. Mish will continue to provide excellence in the field of poetry and engage citizens of Oklahoma in this art form.” 
Mish’s poetry collections include “Tongue Tied Woman,” and “Oklahomeland: Essays,” “What I Learned at War” and “Work is Love Made Visible” – winner of the 2010 Oklahoma Book Award for Poetry and the 2010 Western Heritage Award for Poetry.
In a release from Fallin’s office, Dr. Mish said, “Of all my accomplishments, I’m most proud of being Oklahoma state poet laureate. I look forward to fulfilling my responsibilities as poet laureate by sharing poetry with fellow Oklahomans in every corner of my beloved home state.”

On March 20, Fallin announced appointment (subject to Senate confirmation) of former Commerce Secretary Dave Lopez as Secretary of State. Lopez assumed the post on Monday (March 27), taking the place of Mike Hunter, who is now attorney general. 
By tradition, secretaries of state function as senior policy advisors to governors. Fallin described Lopez as “a successful businessman and tremendous civic leader with connections all around the nation. He brings a great deal of expertise and enthusiasm to the post and I’m delighted to have him back on my Cabinet. He will help in my efforts to implement pro-growth, fiscally responsible and conservative policies to move this state forward.”
In addition to government service, Lopez decades of private sector experience, including with American Fidelity and SBC Communications (now AT&T). He said, “I’m honored to once again serve in the governor’s administration and look forward to working with her to grow Oklahoma’s economy and bring more jobs and opportunities to our state.”

Also last week, Fallin appointed Patrick Fitzgerald, a Norman resident who has worked at iTunes, Walt Disney studios, and Citibank, as her special adviser for innovation, entrepreneurship and entertainment. The governor’s release announcing the section said he will “will attend Cabinet meetings and help set policy in attracting entrepreneurs and in developing training for high-tech jobs.”
“Fostering creativity and innovation and technology skills in our people is one of the most important keys to growing our economy and improving our quality of life,” said Fallin. “Patrick has the knowledge and experience to help our state develop in these areas. He’ll also encourage and cultivate our young people to pursue training in coding and ‘digital manufacturing ‘so that they will be a relevant, skilled workforce attractive to companies seeking to fill job openings.”
In the governor’s release, Fitzgerald said, “I want to help develop a trained workforce and look for funding opportunities for companies interested either in locating in Oklahoma or in hiring part of their workforce from here. Many high-tech jobs today like coding can be performed anywhere and people in those jobs can live and work from anywhere. With the drive and work ethic the people of Oklahoma possess, they can and will thrive in this new global world we live in, but just need more opportunities.”