Sen. Roger Thompson resignation
On left, Sen. Roger Thompson (R-Okemah) speaks with Sen. Casey Murdock (R-Felt) on the Oklahoma State Senate floor Tuesday, April 25, 2023. (Michael Duncan)

Sen. Roger Thompson submitted his irrevocable resignation from the Oklahoma Legislature today, about six weeks after he was suddenly removed as chairman of the Senate Appropriations and Budget Committee.

Thompson (R-Okemah) was first elected in 2014, meaning he had two years left in a third and final term that would have expired in 2026. His resignation will become effective Nov. 1.

“I am grateful and honored to have had the opportunity to serve the people of Senate District 8 for the last 10 years,” Thompson wrote in a brief resignation letter addressed to Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R-OKC).

It was Treat who named Thompson as the body’s budget chairman after becoming pro tempore in late 2018, ending a GOP Caucus competition between the two men. But their six-year leadership partnership ended April 30 with Treat removing his friend from the post and issuing a statement that expressed frustration with Thompson for continuing closed-door negotiations with House counterparts on budget items.

After Treat removed Thompson from the role — and instructed him to vacate his fifth-floor office — a series of Senate subcommittee meetings and eight unprecedented budget summits yielded a more public budget process than ever before, although the eventual deal between the chambers looked notably similar to the positions Thompson and Senate subcommittee chairmen had negotiated in private with House leaders before Treat made his decision.

Nonetheless, Treat and Thompson spoke casually to each other multiple times on the Senate floor in May, laughing at points and appearing to hold little ill will against each other for the removal decision that many Capitol insiders considered insulting.

“Sen. Roger Thompson has been a wonderful friend and great partner in the Senate over the last 10 years,” Treat said in a press release about Thompson’s resignation Friday. “His faithful stewardship of the budget the past several years has led to record savings and record investments in education, behavioral health and infrastructure. Sen. Thompson has also helped navigate the Legislature through many difficult times, especially through the [American Rescue Plan Act funding allocation] process. His work on developing the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency as co-chair has been instrumental in the successful outcomes we have seen come out of this office. Sen. Thompson has a servant’s heart through and through. Even before coming to the Senate, he served in numerous roles in his community, including as a pastor for his local ministry and as a missionary in overseas outreach.”

‘There’s a season for everything’

Then-Senate Appropriations and Budget Chairman Roger Thompson, center right, smiles at House Appropriations and Budget Chairman Kevin Wallace, center left, at the start of the Oklahoma Legislature’s Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding meeting Monday, Dec. 6, 2021. (Tres Savage)

Reached by phone, Thompson downplayed his removal as budget chairman when discussing his decision to resign.

“It does not really stem from that. I think over the last couple of years, (my wife) Pam and I have looked at our business interests and what we need to be doing. It’s time for us to move on to another area, so it is not directly related to that, no,” Thompson said. “I think there’s a season for everything, and there’s a time for everything, and now is the time for me to go back into the business world, so I’m looking forward to that.”

A pastor with a doctorate of theology from Southwestern Bible College and Seminary, Thompson and his wife own an office supply business, a flower shop and the Okemah News Leader, all located in downtown Okemah. He said they are also involved in real estate development, with two housing remodels ongoing in Okemah and Tecumseh.

As he told a panel of lawmakers from around the country at the 2023 Southern Legislative Conference in South Carolina last summer, Thompson also does economic development consulting, although it’s unclear through what entity he engages in that work.

Thompson said he has no plans to run for another office “at this time,” but he did say he has other opportunities knocking.

“I’m talking to a couple of people that have been interested in doing some work, but I have not signed contracts with anybody. So right now, it’s just time for the business world,” Thompson said. “As far as my time as chairman of appropriations, I did the best I could for the people of Oklahoma, and I leave that office with my head held high. I think we did some great things for the folks and did the best I could.”

Under state law, Gov. Kevin Stitt will set a special election schedule to fill Senate District 8, which spans east and west around Okmulgee County, covering the communities of Okmulgee, Henryetta, Okemah, Eufaula and Checotah.

The fate of The Roger Thompson — a whiskey-based digestif anchoring the menu at Rococo on Western — was unclear by the publication of this article.