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Gov. Mary Fallin Names Two New Cabinet Secretaries, Amends Cabinet Structure

Gov. Mary Fallin Names Two New Cabinet Secretaries, Amends Cabinet Structure

Robert Sommers

Tuesday, July 16, 2013  OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today announced the appointment of two new cabinet secretaries as part of a larger realignment of her cabinet.

Dr. Robert Sommers, the current director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, was named secretary of education and workforce development. Deby Snodgrass, the executive director of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, was named to the new position of secretary of tourism.

Today’s appointments came as Fallin made several changes to her cabinet, consolidating some positions to deliver better organizational structure, or creating new ones to reflect her priorities.

Cabinet Reorganization

In an executive order filed today, Fallin renamed secretary of education, “secretary of education and workforce development.” Sommers begins serving in this new position immediately.

“Good schools help drive economic growth and job creation because they provide the education and training ground for our workforce,” Fallin said. “I have asked Dr. Sommers to focus his expertise on policies that will give students – including adult students – the skills they need to find and keep the high-skill, high-paying jobs that are increasingly coming to Oklahoma.”

"Raising the bar in education and improving our workforce means supporting and implementing the reform efforts already enacted by the legislature and being pursued by the State Department of Education, Oklahoma CareerTech, and Higher Education. Dr. Sommers has long been an advocate for the kind of accountability measures implemented in Oklahoma, and I look forward to working closely with him in his new cabinet level position."

Snodgrass’ cabinet post, secretary of tourism, is also a new position. Fallin said its creation reflects the importance of tourism to Oklahoma’s economy.

“Travel and tourism dollars generate over a billion dollars in annual revenue for Oklahoma’s state and local governments and help to support almost 80,000 jobs. Deby Snodgrass has ensured the Department of Tourism and Recreation is a productive and responsible partner to the private sector as it works to promote and support this industry. As a cabinet secretary, she will ensure that the tourism industry continues to be well-represented in the highest levels of the executive branch.”

Snodgrass begins serving in her cabinet position immediately.

Fallin also combined the positions of secretary of energy and secretary of environment, creating a new “secretary of energy and environment.” She has 30 days to fill this position with either a permanent or an interim cabinet secretary.

“Good energy policy is good environmental policy,” said Fallin. “The policies being pursued by this administration will not only help deliver more affordable energy and create more Oklahoma jobs, they will also deliver a healthier environment and cleaner air and water. The job of our secretary of energy and environment will be to focus on policies that encourage the production of Oklahoma energy and the good stewardship of Oklahoma’s environment.”

Finally, the executive order combines the secretary of information technology position with the secretary of finance position currently held by Preston Doerflinger, who will assume the expanded title and role of “secretary of finance, administration and information technology.”

Former Secretary of Information Technology Alex Pettit will continue to serve as state chief information officer. Fallin said the move to expand the secretary of finance’s title and responsibilities reflects the reorganizations that have occurred under government consolidation. With the former Office of State Finance now consolidated with several agencies to form the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, the secretary of finance – also the director of OMES – now plays an expanded role.

More on Secretary of Education and Workforce Development Robert Sommers
(Provided by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education)

On April 1, 2013, Robert Sommers became the seventh state director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. Sommers previously served as CEO and managing member of Carpe Diem Learning Systems, an organization created to replicate the high-performing, cost-effective Carpe Diem personalized blended learning model.

For nine years, Sommers served as CEO and superintendent of an Ohio career-technical district, Butler Technology and Career Development Schools, in Hamilton, Ohio. Under his leadership, the district doubled in size, became the highest performing career-technical district in Ohio and became known for creative educational programs, including blended learning schools.

The district served more than 26,000 high schools through adult students and provided customized training to companies. For 15 years, Sommers served in several capacities with the Ohio Department of Education. He served as an agricultural supervisor, state adviser for the FFA, assistant director of program evaluation services and associate director for career-technical education. Sommers’ teaching experience includes agricultural education in London, Ohio.

Sommers served as Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s education policy adviser covering elementary through university education policy. During his tenure, Ohio implemented reforms for increased school performance transparency, teacher evaluation, school choice, digital education options and failing school transformation.

While in Detroit, he served as CEO of Cornerstone Charter Schools, where he designed the Cornerstone Health High School, a blended learning school that opened in fall 2012.

Sommers earned a doctorate in educational administration and leadership from The Ohio State University, Columbus, where he also completed his master’s degree in agricultural education. He earned a bachelor of science degree in education at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, and has received several education and business awards in Ohio. He has also served in leadership positions in numerous state and national organizations, including chairman of the Performance Taskforce for the National Association of Career and Technical Education.

More on Secretary of Tourism Deby Snodgrass
(Provided by the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation)

Deby Snodgrass has more than 30 years experience in marketing and public policy in the private sector. Prior to accepting the Executive Director’s post at the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, Snodgrass served as Senior Director of Public Affairs for Chesapeake Energy. In that role, she developed and executed strategic political and public policy initiatives, managed both state and federal political action committees and monitored federal, state and local issues.

Previous to her tenure at Chesapeake, Snodgrass was a founding partner of the public policy and research firm Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates. She has been a frequent guest speaker and has taught policy and strategy at various national and international venues.

Snodgrass was also a founding member of the Board of Directors for Friends of the Mansion, Inc. and is a former co-chair of "Opening Night," Oklahoma City's annual New Year's Eve celebration. She served eight years on Oklahoma's Capitol Preservation Commission and is a former board member for the Arts Council of Oklahoma City.

She currently serves as a member of the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority and as an ex-officio board member of Allied Arts, and the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority. Snodgrass also serves on the Oklahoma Compensation and Unclassified Positions Review Board and the Governor's Remuneration Study Group.