Oklahoma State Board of Health appoints interim commissioner

Oklahoma State Department of Health

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma State Department of Health has appointed a new interim commissioner.

It has been a tumultuous year for the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

In October, Health Commissioner Terry Cline and Deputy Commissioner Julie Cox-Kain resigned from their positions amid a financial crisis.

A statement released by the board read, in part, “The resignation of Commissioner Cline came on the heels of information received by the Board that OSDH is faced with an immediate financial loss predicated upon multiple years of over-expenditures and fiscal mismanagement.”

Following the resignations, the Board of Health announced the appointment of Preston Doerflinger as interim commissioner.

Last month, the board of OSDH went into executive session to discuss Doerflinger’s employment following allegations of domestic abuse.

Doerflinger announced his resignation following the executive session.

On Wednesday, the Oklahoma State Board of Health selected Tom Bates as the interim commissioner for the agency.

“I appreciate the confidence that the board has placed in my ability to serve in this position,” said Bates. “I want to immediately sit down with the fine people in this agency and work to make sure OSDH can focus on delivering core services to protect the health of all Oklahomans.”

Bates has served as the governor's special adviser on child welfare and Pinnacle Plan implementation since October 2015. Prior to that, he served in the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office for 15 years.

“Tom is an outstanding leader whose hard work and dedication motivates those around him. He has the knowledge and background to successfully address and resolve the current situation at the Oklahoma Department of Health. Having worked with Tom, I know him to be a skilled, trusted attorney, whose steady voice of reason has led to many milestones and achievements while at the Attorney General’s Office, as well as serving as the governor’s special adviser on child welfare. Most importantly, Tom takes a team-oriented approach to management, where he listens and seeks outside opinions when making tough decisions," said Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter.  “I support and endorse the health board’s action in selecting Tom. I look forward to working with him in his new capacity.”