Gov. Kevin Stitt talks tourism, state appointments

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Less than a week after being inaugurated as the state’s 28th governor, Governor Stitt announced a new member of his cabinet.

On Thursday morning, Governor Kevin Stitt announced Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell as Secretary of Tourism and Branding, and as an adviser over the Commerce Department.

“It’s going to be a tremendous opportunity for Oklahoma to recruit businesses to our state,” Stitt said.

Pinnell said he will be working closely with the governor’s office, and hopes to expand tourism in Oklahoma in the coming years.

“As a state, you’ve gotta play to your strengths,” Pinnell said. “Tourism is a strength.”

Gov. Stitt and Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell talk tourism, state agencies on Jan. 17

During a news conference on Thursday morning, Pinnell said that state tax collection from tourism has jumped over 20 percent since 2010. He says that he hopes to increase that in the coming months and years.

“Tourism also is the front door to economic development,” Pinnell said. “If we can get people off our roads and bridges in Oklahoma, they fall in love with the state. They fall in love with the people. We know that.”

Pinnell says he is also looking at every rebate and tax incentive to make sure they are working for the state by creating either tax revenue or jobs.

Stitt says he is focused on fostering small business growth and entrepreneurship, along with creating a better working relationship between state agencies.

Gov. Stitt talks to the media Jan. 17

He says he is taking a different approach to his appointments, using his experience in the private sector.

“Oklahomans want me to make the right decision, and so I’m really taking it very seriously. I’m in all of these interviews. I’m literally interviewing 10 people per position. I’m driving my staff crazy because I’m making them bring back five more and I’m getting into the weeds because Oklahomans want me to make sure that we’re delivering good services. This is a big, huge service organization, and we’re gonna be a customer-focused government and these are large agencies that spend a lot of taxpayer dollars, and I wanna get that right,” Stitt said. “If I didn’t want any changes to happen, I’d just keep appointing the same people, but Oklahomans want me to make sure that I’m hiring the right people.”

Stitt says that he is budget-focused, and believes the state is in a better situation than it was last year. He says he is also coming up with a way to make sure that core services aren’t targeted during financial trouble.

“We can’t have another situation where we cut core services,” Stitt said.

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