Governor Stitt appoints local businessman to become DHS director

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Governor Stitt has made a big announcement on the future of the Department of Human Services.

Justin Brown will take over the role of the agency's director.

Brown currently owns and operates several senior living centers and is involved with non-profits like the Alzheimer's Association and the Children's Hospital Foundation.

This is the first time in almost seven years Oklahoma has had a new DHS Director.

Governor Kevin Stitt says he thinks Brown is the best fit for his efforts to make Oklahoma a top-10 state.

"I always look for people [who] want to think big and want to think about the future and be very innovative, so that's exactly what we've found in Justin Brown," Stitt said.

40-year-old Brown is a businessman connected to several companies and local non-profits.

He is the CEO of Choice Capital Partners, which has seven senior living communities in three states: Texas, Colorado and here in Oklahoma.

Now, as he is taking on this role, Brown says he plans to move out of management.

While he says he hasn't had time to say exactly what all changes he'll make, he plans to focus on culture change and use innovative technology to reach those DHS serves.

"So really, we are going to be centered around serving the customer," Brown said. "That is absolutely our number one priority."

Brown moves into a position Ed Lake held for nearly 7 years.

Lake took over in a time of much turmoil.

In 2012, DHS settled a class-action lawsuit alleging the agency victimized foster children.

A five-year-plan was put in place to turn things around.

Since that time, DHS says Lake has achieved more than $13 million in efficiencies and cost-savings.

"Ed has done a tremendous job of moving us forward, investing his time," Stitt said. "We just got a report, we've got 29 of the 30 objectives moving in the right direction right now."

Despite that, Stitt and his team say it's time for new leadership.

"If we get this right, it is a game-changer for generations to come," Stitt said.

Lake released the following statement:

“Serving at the will of the Governor, I have always understood the nature of this appointment.  I support a Governor’s authority to select his or her own team and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have served in this vital role. While I am disappointed about not being able to finish some important work, I am extremely proud of many accomplishments and the solid framework created at DHS which leaves the agency in excellent condition for the next administration. I will do all that I can to help ensure a smooth transition for the new director.”

Brown takes over June 17.

Stitt says Brown will make the same salary as Lake did - $185,000 per year.

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