Despite a budget shortfall that is forcing many state agencies to cut positions and absorb major funding cuts next fiscal year, one agency announced that it has created a new executive position that will pay an annual salary of $250,000.
In a news release Tuesday, the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) announced that former Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas has accepted the position of Chief Executive Officer. TSET already has an executive director, Tracey Strader, who earns $120,000 annually.
Jim Gebhart, chair of the TSET Board of Directors, explains the need to add the new executive position this way: “[Douglas’s] experience in business, banking, community service and building partnerships across the state will be a valuable asset as we work together to build a brighter, healthier, more prosperous future for Oklahoma.”
“TSET is at a stage in growth to benefit from the additional skills in long term financial management, legal expertise and collaboration that Patrice will bring to the organization,” said Gebhart. “The Board of Directors remains committed to ensuring that Oklahoman’s health continues to improve with evidence-based, best practice grants and programs.”
TSET was created in 2000 by constitutional amendment to oversee the investment and use of funds from the massive, multi-state settlement with the tobacco industry in 1998. The state grant-making trust seeks to reduce the leading causes of death in Oklahoma – cancer and cardiovascular disease, and, according to TSET’s web site, it’s expected Oklahoma will receive about $2 billion over the first 25 years of the settlement.
Since TSET issued its first grant in 2002, the agency says its program budget has increased from $500,000 to $48 million. During that time, the TSET Board of Directors has focused on reducing tobacco use, physical inactivity, poor nutrition, and obesity, the preventable health behaviors that are the major contributors to cancer and cardiovascular disease – our state’s leading causes of death.
Douglas, an attorney, has worked off and on in the banking industry, in between stints of public service. Douglas was elected mayor of Edmond in 2009. She was re-elected without opposition in 2011, but left the position later that year when Governor Fallin appointed her to fill the unexpired term of Corporation Commissioner Jeff Cloud. Douglas ran for Congress in 2014, but was defeated in the Republican primary by Steve Russell. She has been working in private law and consulting practice since then.
Through an Open Records request, News 9 has learned that TSET’s total payroll for FY 2014 was $1.52 million. With the addition of this position, and others last year, payroll will now be $2.31 million, an increase of 52 percent.