new cabinet positions
Jennifer Grigsby, left, and Susan Winchester, right, are Gov. Kevin Stitt's nominees for two new cabinet positions. (NonDoc)

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s shape-shifting cabinet underwent its latest transformation this week with the announcement of nominations for two new cabinet positions and the elimination of two others.

Susan Winchester, a former member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Oklahoma’s first female speaker pro-tempore, has been nominated for the newly created position of secretary of licensing and regulation.

Jennifer Grigsby, who previously worked as an executive at Ascent Resources and Chesapeake Energy, is Stitt’s nominee for the new position of secretary of economic administration.

On Thursday, Scott Mueller was nominated to be the new secretary of commerce and workforce development, replacing Secretary Sean Kouplen, who has held the post for two years.

The governor’s office said the two new roles would play an “integral part” in helping the governor “deliver taxpayers more for their money.”

Winchester on ‘cutting red tape’

Tuesday’s press release announcing Winchester’s nomination said the licensing and regulation position will oversee more than 80 state agencies, boards and commissions.

These include a wide variety of professional licensing organizations, such as the Advisory Board on Massage Therapy, the Committee of Plumbing Examiners and the State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision. The secretary will also oversee regulatory bodies including the Department of Labor, the Department of Securities and the Department of Consumer Credit.

The full list of the agencies under the new office’s purview is included in Stitt’s executive order creating the position, which was published on Monday. 

“It is an honor to return to serve the state of Oklahoma in this new role,” Winchester said in a press release. “I am excited to get to work with Gov. Stitt to move our state forward by cutting red tape, getting rid of excessive regulations and creating a system that encourages success instead of preserving mediocrity.”

Winchester served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1998 to 2008. She was also Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb’s chief of staff from 2017 to 2019. During her time in the Legislature, she won the Defender of Free Enterprise Award from the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce.

Before entering politics, Winchester was in the agriculture industry as the co-owner of American Dusting Company and Chickasha Flying Service. She is married to Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice James Winchester.

Grigsby ‘passionate about the advancement of our state’

Grigsby’s nomination was announced Wednesday. The new secretary of economic administration will oversee more than 20 state agencies, boards and commissions, including the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, the Office of the State Treasurer, the Oklahoma Tax Commission and the State Auditor and Inspector’s Office, which was previously under the Secretary of Agency accountability. (Read the full list here.)

Grigsby has a background in accounting and spent her career in oil and gas. From 2015 until 2020, she was executive vice president and chief financial officer of Ascent Resources. Before that, she spent 19 years as an executive of Chesapeake Energy Corporation, serving at different times as senior vice president, treasurer and corporate secretary, and senior vice president of corporate and strategic planning.

“I am honored to join Gov. Stitt’s cabinet,” Grigsby said in the announcement of her nomination. “As a native Oklahoman and lifelong resident, I am passionate about the advancement of our state.  I look forward to serving the people of Oklahoma by applying my corporate leadership experience to make state government more efficient and work better for taxpayers.”

Mueller promises to ‘champion job creators’

As secretary of commerce and workforce development, Scott Mueller will oversee 30 state agencies, including the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and the Governor’s Council for Workforce and Economic Development.

Scott Mueller.

Mueller said in the announcement of his nomination, “I look forward to telling employers across the nation what we, as Oklahomans, already know — that we have a very capable workforce willing and able to help companies grow and succeed, that we have a great environment for business and employers and have remained open for business throughout the pandemic, and that we champion job creators and will work hard to help new and existing employers maximize the opportunities in front of them.”

Mueller is originally from Michigan and spent the early years of his career at Goldman Sachs before leaving the company as a vice president of private wealth management. He is currently a managing member of the holding company 313 Holdings and is the co-founder of Watermark Bank in Oklahoma City. He was previously the chief financial officer of Arcadia Capital.

Mueller was also the chief financial officer of American Energy Partners, a company started by Aubrey McClendon after departing Chesapeake Energy, which dissolved after McClendon’s death in 2016. Before working for AELP, Mueller was the chief financial officer for McClendon’s private companies and family office.

The departing secretary, Sean Kouplen, is leaving after having fulfilled a two-year commitment. He will return full-time to his private-sector job as chairman and CEO of Regent Bank.

Two cabinet seats eliminated

The executive order creating the new cabinet positions also eliminated two others: the secretary of agency accountability and the secretary of budget. The governor is limited to 15 cabinet members at any time.

The two agencies formerly overseen by the secretary of agency accountability — the State Auditor and Inspector’s Office and the Office of Management and Enterprise Services — will now be under the secretary of economic administration and the secretary of digital transformation, respectively.

John Budd, who formerly served as both secretary of agency accountability and the state’s chief operating officer, will continue serving as COO.

The secretary of budget seat, which Stitt created in February 2018, has been open since Mike Mazzei resigned from the post in October. According to the governor’s spokesman, Charlie Hannema, many of the budget secretary’s responsibilities were given to the state’s chief financial officer, Amanda Rodriguez, when she started in November.

The Oklahoma State Senate must confirm Stitt’s appointees.

(Update: This article was updated at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, to include information on the nomination of Scott Mueller.)