A former veterans center administrator has taken the reins of Oklahoma's embattled Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA).
The Oklahoma War Veterans Commission named John McReynolds interim director late Friday afternoon, and he was on the job Monday morning.
Mr. McReynolds was one of three candidates that the Commission considered for the job. One of the others was Maj. Gen. (retired) Rita Aragon, Oklahoma's Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
One member of the Commission, Jerry Riley, told News 9 that, in the end, the members selected McReynolds because they felt he would be best able to quickly step in and get things under control.
"He's well qualified and already experienced," Riley said.
The department has come under fire in recent months following reports of serious abuse and neglect of veterans at some of the centers across the state. ODVA's previous director, Martha Spears, abruptly announced her retirement late last month, citing her husband's poor health.
McReynolds worked for the department for 10 years. When he retired in 2009, he was the administrator of the Lawton-Ft Sill veterans center. Prior to that, he was employed by the Oklahoma Army National Guard.
According to Riley, the Commission considered putting a timetable on the interim job, but ultimately chose to keep it open-ended in order to give McReynolds ample time to "get things going in the right direction."
Asked how long he hoped to hold the interim position, McReynolds said, "Hopefully long to make some things happen." He said his goal is to make sure that everyone is doing their job, taking responsibility for their work, and doing good work.
He said the top priority, of course, is to take better care of our veterans. But, McReynolds added, employees have to be taken care of as well because "you can't take care of one without the other."
McReynolds and his wife of 43 years live in Broken Arrow. He says he'll get an apartment in Oklahoma City so he doesn't have to commute each day.