Governor Stitt Names Oklahoma Businessman As New DHS Director
OKLAHOMA CITY - There are new developments at Oklahoma's Department of Human Services. Director Ed Lake is out, and the governor has named an Oklahoma businessman to take over the state's largest agency.
At a press conference Tuesday morning, Governor Stitt said this was one of the most important hires he needed to make.
“This is very, very dear to my heart and it was a big decision,” said Governor Stitt.
Justin Brown, a 40-year CEO, says it wasn't easy to lure him from his life in the private sector.
“I was comfortable, things were good, life was easy, I kind of set my own schedule,” said Brown.
Brown's company Choice Capital Partners owns a number of assisted living centers in three states. But the governor managed to convince him to take over the state's largest agency.
“The first effort is culture change,” said Brown. “Really we are going to be centered around serving the customer. That is absolutely our number one priority. And in fact, our only core priority to make sure that just seniors, but abused and neglected children, those with developmental disabilities, all those we serve, the poor and the working poor are served.”
Current Director Ed Lake says he is disappointed he won't be staying in the role but is proud of the work he has done since 2012. The agency is still trying to meet the benchmarks set forth in the Pinnacle Plan, a series of reforms the state agreed to, to settle a federal lawsuit.
In the latest report, the Co-Neutrals found that DHS made good faith efforts in 29 of 31 areas but was failing to find therapeutic foster homes for children.
“New blood, old blood we need to get the placements for kids,” said Marcia Lowry. Lowry, with the group A Better Childhood, is the attorney in that federal lawsuit. She says meeting the needs for those kids should be Brown’s first priority.
“The state said they were going to develop 300 new homes which was great. They haven’t done that. They were going to have a meeting the next day. I don’t know what happened with that meeting. It’s almost a year later and the state is simply not doing it,” said Lowry.
Lake’s last day is June 14. Brown's first official day on the job is June 17.
Brown says he has stepped down from his role at Choice Capital and will now serve as an advisory role on the board of directors.