Oklahoma City -- The Oklahoma Commission for Human Services met today in a special meeting and has announced that Preston Doerflinger, Oklahoma Secretary of Finance and current director of the Office of State Finance (OSF), will step in to replace Terri White as interim director for the Department of Human Services.
White, who had been serving in the interim post concurrent to her position as commissioner for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS), chose to resign as interim director following the discovery that a state statute prohibiting dual office holding was silent about positions that are interim in nature. Because the statute does not specifically address the issue of interim status, it is uncertain whether or not the statute would apply in this circumstance. White and the Commission believe that the most appropriate course of action is to be safe since it is unclear as to whether the statute applies.
Doerflinger, who is currently director of the Office of State Finance, has agreed to temporarily resign that position to serve in the OKDHS interim role. He only intends to hold the position until a permanent executive director is announced. According to the Governor’s Office, he will be reinstated as the OSF director at that time.
White felt that she could not consider a similar action due to the nature of her role at ODMHSAS and the agency’s standing as an integral part of the state’s overall health care system. The department serves over 70,000 Oklahomans a year in need of mental health and substance abuse treatment.
Brad Yarbrough, chairman of the Commission, said they understand and agree with Commissioner White’s decision to step down as interim so there would be no question of her integrity, or the integrity of OKDHS, although they are still disappointed to be losing her leadership and knowledge.
“The commission, employees and the public were at ease with Terri in a leadership role during this time of transition,” said Yarbrough. “Although, when Secretary Doerflinger was willing to step in, we knew there would be another proven leader taking the helm. We are very confident in his abilities to benefit the organization and continue our positive progress.”
White has indicated that she will continue to assist the agency in any manner possible and is expected to maintain a consulting role with Doerflinger and the Commission.
“I want to reiterate my commitment to assist OKDHS as appropriate during this time of transition,” said White. “The agency and its employees provide vital services to Oklahomans in need every day. I will certainly do everything I can to assist Preston and the agency.
We already have a great working relationship, and I really look forward to the opportunity to work together in this new capacity. What he has accomplished at OSF has been tremendous, and I know he will bring the same energy and innovation to OKDHS.”
“Knowing that Secretary Doerflinger and Commissioner White will be working together on behalf of OKDHS during this time, we feel like we have the best of all worlds,” said Yarbrough.
Doerflinger, who has received significant attention for his role in reshaping OSF, says that he welcomes the support and is excited to step into such an important role.
“I greatly welcome the opportunity,” Doerflinger said. “I have great appreciation for the importance of this position and will do all that I can to capture and maintain the positive momentum that exists. I also look forward to working with Commissioner White and have great respect for her abilities and experience.”
The Commission expressed both its appreciation for White and confidence in Doerflinger when the announcement was made at the special meeting held today. Although the change was not planned, it was successfully carried out due to teamwork and partnership by all involved.
“It was a tremendous effort by everyone involved to find a quick and successful solution that benefits the agency and people of Oklahoma,” said Yarbrough. “The Commission appreciates the efforts by both Terri and Preston, and is thrilled that we will have both of their help over the next several months, as we continue to advance.”
The Oklahoma Commission for Human Services is actively engaged in a national search to fill the vacant OKDHS executive director position on a permanent basis. The selection process is expected to be completed by June 30, 2012.