Inhofe, McCaleb cheer Fallin’s decision retaining Ridley at transportation

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 02-Dec-2010

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and the leader of a key private association advocating transportation improvements in Oklahoma have applauded the decision of Governor-elect Mary Fallin, announced this week, to retain Secretary of Transportation Gary Ridley.

In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, dean of the Oklahoma congressional delegation, said: “I am pleased that Governor-elect Mary Fallin has decided to retain my good friend Gary Ridley as Oklahoma’s Secretary of Transportation. Throughout the years, Gary’s dedicated service to Oklahoma has proven invaluable.

“Simply put, he is the best Secretary of Transportation in the country. I look forward to working with both Governor-elect Fallin and Secretary Ridley to meet Oklahoma’s transportation needs.”

Inhofe is the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Neal McCaleb, president of the T.R.U.S.T. Road and Bridge Coalition, echoed Inhofe’s acclaim.

In an interview with CapitolBeatOK, McCaleb said, “In my judgment, Gary Ridley is the best director/secretary of Transportation in Oklahoma history, and I say that without any false modesty. I applaud the announcement from Governor-elect Mary Fallin.”

McCaleb served as secretary of Transportation for both Henry Bellmon and Frank Keating, former Republican governors of the state. He has also served at the federal level, and is a well-known member of the Chickasaw Nation.

Fallin said Ridley will retain his role as secretary, and also serve as director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and of the state Turnpike Authority jobs he has held in the latter years of Gov. Brad Henry’s administration.

In a press release sent to CapitolBeatOK, Fallin said, “Gary has been serving Oklahoma’s transportation needs for over four decades. I’ve worked with him as a state representative, as lieutenant governor and as a United States Congresswoman on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and I can attest to Gary’s unparalleled expertise and dedication. I’m glad to have him on my team.”

Ridley was named secretary in 2009 by Governor Brad Henry. He has directed the Transportation Department since 2001, and held the turnpike post since October 2009. He is a career transportation specialist, having started at the agency in 1965 as an equipment operator. He served several years in the late 1990s as executive director of the Oklahoma Asphalt Paving Association.

According to the Fallin transition team’s press release, during Ridley’s tenure, “the number of bad bridges has been reduced and safety features, such as life-saving cable barriers, have become commonplace on Oklahoma’s highways. Ridley also improved the process of preparing the department’s eight-year Construction Work Plan. With funding increases for transportation, he was able to firm-up commitments made in the fiscally constrained plan, particularly those during the first three years.”

Last year, Ridley made quick use of federal stimulus funds to fill in a backlog of Oklahoma road and bridge projects, without drawing the critical analyses that marked the stimulus process in some states.