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John Kevin Stitt (born December 28, 1972)[1] is an American businessman and politician serving as the 28th and current Governor of Oklahoma since 2019. The founder and a former Chairman and CEO of Gateway Mortgage Group, he is a member of the Republican Party and was first elected in 2018, defeating Democratic nominee Drew Edmondson. Stitt grew up in Norman, Oklahoma and graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in accounting. He and his wife Sarah have six children. A member of the Cherokee Nation, Stitt is the first Native American in history to serve as governor of a U.S. state.

Kevin Stitt
Kevin Stitt 2A (cropped).jpg
28th Governor of Oklahoma
Assumed office
January 14, 2019
LieutenantMatt Pinnell
Preceded byMary Fallin
Personal details
Born
John Kevin Stitt

(1972-12-28) December 28, 1972 (age 46)
Milton, Florida, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Sarah Hazen
ResidenceGovernor's Mansion
EducationOklahoma State University, Stillwater (BS)

Contents

Early lifeEdit

Stitt was born in Milton, Florida, and grew up in Norman, Oklahoma, where his father was the pastor of Riverside Church. He graduated from Norman High School,[2] and went on to attend Oklahoma State University where he received a degree in accounting. While a student at OSU, Stitt worked to pay his way through college by selling educational products door-to-door with Southwestern Advantage. He was the first person in the company’s 115-year history to achieve the top sales as a first-year sales person.[2] Stitt is also a member of the Gamma Lamba chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

Financial services careerEdit

Stitt worked in the financial services sector before starting Gateway in 2000.[3] According to a profile of Stitt by Bloomberg News, he founded the company and was President/CEO until January 2014 when he became Chairman/CEO. On the campaign trail, Stitt says that he started Gateway in 2000 with "$1,000 and a computer." Stitt’s first obstacle was to get approved as a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) lender, but the company needed a net worth of $50,000. To achieve this amount, Stitt put forward the equity in his home to grow Gateway. In 2002, Gateway secured its first warehouse line, began obtaining licensing in other states besides Oklahoma, and started recruiting loan officers. By 2006, Gateway had over 400 employees.

From 2007 to 2010, the U.S. economy became ensnared in a subprime mortgage crisis. Instead of abandoning the mortgage space like some private firms during this time, Stitt continued to hire and expand Gateway.[4] The company obtained approval during this time from Fannie Mae and Ginnie Mae to begin servicing mortgage loans and issuing securities.[5]

Since 2012, Gateway has been recognized 17 times for its success, growth and corporate culture. Gateway currently has about 1,200 team members in more than 165 locations across the country. The company estimates it will originate more than $6 billion in mortgage loans in 2018, while its servicing portfolio will eclipse $16 billion.[6]

In August 2018 DS News reported that he stepped down as CEO and handed the reins to Stephen Curry,[7] while Stitt remained as Chairman.[8] Gateway is a mid-sized company based in Jenks, Oklahoma which employs more than 1,200 people. The firm originates mortgages in 41 states.[9]

CharitiesEdit

In 2009, a donation from Gateway helped build the Gateway Christian School in a small village in Nigeria that educates more than 300 students a year. Gateway continues to make an annual donation to fund teachers’ salaries, provide school supplies, give scholarships, etc. In 2015, Stitt provided a donation to purchase 215 acres in Uganda to establish the Gateway Youth Ranch, which provides orphans with traditional schooling plus sustainability skills such as crop and fish farming, raising cattle and other skills that will enhance their lives.[6]

In 2017, Gateway announced a national partnership with Folds of Honor that will likely exceed $100,000 in donations annually. Folds of Honor is a 501(C)(3) that provides educational scholarships to families of military men and women who have fallen or been disabled while serving in the United States armed forces.[10]

ControversiesEdit

In 2009, the mortgage company was listed on a free business website whose founder was banned for life from Securities industry by SEC, Business Insider online article listed shadiest 15 companies for its business office in the state of Illinois.[11][12] According to the Business Insider article, they cited the company as originating nearly twice as many bad mortgages as its competitors.[12] In an article published by the Oklahoman on August 19, 2018, the newspaper highlighted the inaccuracies of the Business Insider article, reporting that "in the Illinois case, a consent order states that the Illinois banking agency investigated a Gateway loan originator for an 'alleged real estate, appraisal, and mortgage fraud scheme.' Gateway fired the employee, asked for a hearing and then agreed to what investigators found. Gateway agreed to a $10,000 fine...Stitt campaign spokeswoman Donelle Harder said the license in Illinois was never revoked. The state agreed after the appeal not to revoke the license, she said." [13]

NEWS9 also said that according to Georgia's Department of Banking and Finance, Stitt was banned for five years[14] and the company was banned for life from origination mortgages in Georgia. According to an Oklahoman article, a Gateway corporate attorney said that there were misrepresentations and insufficient background checks attributable to employees in the Georgia office but that Stitt was not involved. The employees were terminated and Gateway paid a $2,000 fine. The state overturned the lifetime ban on Gateway, effective November 2017. Gateway is able to do business in all 50 states.[13]

During the gubernatorial campaign, Oklahoma Watch reported that Gateway was fined by Wisconsin regulators for a "clerical error" regarding the firm's history with regulators from other states. Gateway corrected the application and was issued a license in 2009 and continues to be in good standing with the state of Wisconsin today.[15]

2018 Oklahoma gubernatorial campaignEdit

In July 2017, Stitt announced his candidacy[16][17][18][19] for the Republican nomination[20][21] for the gubernatorial election of Oklahoma.[22][23] He ran a 77 county campaign with campaign stops in nearly every city and town, against nine other candidates in the primary election, placing second in that race and defeating, among others, Lt. Governor Todd Lamb.[24][25] In the August 28 primary runoff, Stitt defeated Mick Cornett, a former Mayor of Oklahoma City, to win the nomination.[26] Stitt defeated Democrat former Attorney General Drew Edmondson and Libertarian Chris Powell in the general election in November 2018.[27]

In the GOP runoff, Stitt received a major boost as he was endorsed by a trio of conservative leaders U.S. Senator Ted Cruz[28] and former U.S. Senators Rick Santorum[29] and Tom Coburn.[30] In the General Election, Stitt was also endorsed by former primary rival Mick Cornett,[31] the incumbent governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin,[32] and President Donald Trump.[33] The Oklahoman reported that the Stitt campaign rejected the endorsement of Governor Fallin, stating "'We did not seek (Fallin's endorsement), and Kevin Stitt has run on a campaign message that he will do things a lot differently,' said Donelle Harder, spokeswoman for the Stitt campaign. 'He is focused on changing the structure of state government and cleaning up the mess we are currently in at the Capitol.'"[31]

During the general election, the close race drew increased attention from national media and political figures.[34] Vice President Mike Pence campaigned for Stitt during the general election.[35][36][37][38]

Governor of OklahomaEdit

TransitionEdit

Immediately after he was declared the unofficial winner of the gubernatorial election, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol began providing security for Stitt and his family as required by state law.[39] Shortly thereafter, outgoing Governor Mary Fallin made a statement congratulating Stitt on his victory and instructing her staff to make office space in the Oklahoma State Capitol available to him for his transition office.[40] Stitt and some of his staff members met with Fallin and her staff the next morning to discuss the transition period. A spokesperson from the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services announced that Stitt would not immediately assume control of the Governor's Office until early 2020 due to the previously scheduled Capitol restoration project. Stitt also announced that he would not immediately move his family into the Oklahoma Governor's Mansion in Oklahoma City, instead remaining in Jenks until summer 2019 to allow his daughter to graduate high school.[41]

On November 13, 2018, Stitt announced the creation of his transition team, which he termed "Oklahoma's Turnaround".[42] Attorney Marc Nuttle was selected to serve as chair of the transition team. On November 20, 2018, Stitt expanded the transition team by appointing seven chairs to oversee policy advisory committees. The committees will develop policy proposals for the upcoming legislative session, prepare the governor-elect’s budget proposal, and ensure an orderly transition to the new administration. Each advisory committee chair will lead a team of Oklahomans in developing proposals for the first Legislative session in a Stitt administration:[43]

InaugurationEdit

The ceremony for Stitt's inauguration was held on January 14, 2019 on the south portico and front steps of the Oklahoma State Capitol. Members of the 57th Oklahoma Legislature were also in attendance, with Senate President Pro Temp Greg Treat leading the Oklahoma State Senate and House Speaker Charles McCall leading the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Outgoing Governor Mary Fallin, along with four of the five then living former Governors (George Nigh, David Walters, Frank Keating, and Brad Henry) and their respective spouses attended the inauguration. Former Governor David L. Boren, due to health concerns, was the only living former Governor who did not attend. The various leaders of the 38 federally recognized Native American tribes headquartered in Oklahoma were also present. Justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, together with judges of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals and the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals, likewise attended the ceremony.

Chief Justice of Oklahoma Noma Gurich swore in Matt Pinnell as the 17th Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma. Following a performance by the 145th Army Band, Chief Justice Gurich administered the oath of office at 12:11 PM to Stitt, formally investing him as the 28th Governor of Oklahoma. Stitt's wife Sarah held the Bible for the ceremony. Stitt then delivered his inaugural address, a 15-minute speech.[44] During the speech, Governor Stitt, harkening to his campaign slogan, urged that Oklahoma's turnaround stated with his inauguration. He called for greater gubernatorial control of the state agenices, improvement public education, reducing Oklahoma's incarceration rate, and better recruitment of new businesses to the state. Stitt's father, the Rev. John L. Stitt, ended the ceremony by giving the benediction.[45]

In addition to Governor Stitt and Lt. Governor Pinnell, seven other statewide officials were also administered their oaths of office: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd, Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Leslie Osborn, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready, Oklahoma State Treasurer Randy McDaniel, and Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony.

Administration personnelEdit

The Cabinet of Governor Kevin Stitt
(2019–Present)
Office Name Term
Governor Kevin Stitt 2019-Present
Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell 2019-Present
Secretary of State Michael Rogers 2019-Present
Secretary of Energy and Environment Kenneth Wagner 2019-Present
Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur 2019-Present
Adjutant General Michael C. Thompson 2019-Present
Secretary of Public Safety Rusty Rhoades 2019-Present
Secretary of the Budget Mike Mazzei 2019-Present
Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development Sean Kouplen 2019-Presemt
Secretary of Agency Accountability John Budd 2019-Present
Secretary of Tourism and Branding Matt Pinnell 2019-Present
Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz 2019-Present
Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration David Ostrowe 2019-Present
Chief of Staff Michael Junk 2019-Present
General Counsel Mark Burget 2019-Present

Stitt's first appointment in his administration were announced on November 27, 2018 when he nominated Michael Rogers as his Oklahoma Secretary of State, a position that will require confirmation by the Oklahoma Senate. Rogers served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 2014 to 2018 representing Broken Arrow. While in the House, he served as chair of the House Common Education Committee.[46] As Secretary of State, Rogers will be Stitt's chief negotiator with the Legislature. The same day, Stitt announced he had selected Tulsa Deputy Mayor Michael Junk to serve as Chief of Staff to the Governor, a position which will select and supervise key staff in Stitt's official office.

On November 28, 2018, Stitt announced the nomination of Kenneth Wagner as his Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment, a position that will require confirmation by the Oklahoma Senate. Wagner was a senior advisor in the Environmental Protection Agency under former Administrator Scott Pruitt.[47] If confirmed, Wagner will serve as the governor’s chief adviser on energy and environmental policy and well oversee over Oklahoma’s energy and environmental agencies, including the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality. On December 10, 2018, Stitt selected attorney Mark Burget of Norman to serve as General Counsel to the Governor. Burget will advise Stitt on all legal issues concerning the Governor and his Administration.[48]

Stitt announced the nomination of Blayne Arthur as Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture on December 13, 2018. A former deputy secretary for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry under Governor Fallin, Arthur will become the first women to serve as agriculture secretary if confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate.[49] The next day, Stitt announced he would retain both Major General Michael C. Thompson and Rusty Rhoades as Adjutant General of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Secretary of Safety and Security, respectively, positions they held during the Fallin Administration. General Thompson commands the Oklahoma National Guard while Secretary Rhoades oversees the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.[50]

On December 21, 2018, Stitt announced the first major restricting of the executive cabinet. Under the Fallin Administration, state finance and administration was overseen by a single Secretary of Finance. Stitt split the duties of that former position into three new positions: a Secretary of Budget, a Secretary of Agency Accountability, and a Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration. The same day, Stitt nominated Mike Mazzei as Budget Secretary. Mazzie served in the Oklahoma Senate from 2004 to 2016 representing Tulsa. While in the Senate, he served as chair of the Senate Finance Committee. As budget chief, Mazzie, if confirmed by the Senate, will be responsible for preparing the governor’s annual budget and overseeing its implementation.[51]

The first appointees in 2019 were announced on January 6, 2019, when Stitt nominated Sean Kouplen of Tulsa and Brent Kisling of Enid as Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development and Executive Director of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce respectively.[52] Kouplen, chairman and CEO of Regent Bank in Tulsa, will provide strategic direction to Oklahoma's economic development efforts while Kisling will oversee the day-to-day operations of the Department and report to Kouplen.[53] The next day on January 7, 2019, Stitt announced his appointment of John Budd, an executive vice president with Sonic Drive In, to serve in the newly created position of State Chief Operating Officer.[54] If confirmed by Senate to serve as the Secretary of Agency Accountability in Stitt's cabinet, Budd will be responsible for ensuring all state agencies provide public services in an efficient manner as they implement the Governor's policies.

Consistent with prior administrations, Governor Stitt announced the appointment of Lt. Governor Pinnell as his Secretary of Tourism and Branding on January 17, 2019 to oversee the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation. The Lieutenant Governor will also be senior advisor for the Commerce Department overseeing investment into Oklahoma's federally-approved opportunity zones.[55] On January 18, 2019, Governor Stitt announced the nomination of Tim Gatz to serve as his Secretary of Transportation and the nomination of David Ostrowe as his Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration. Gatz, the current executive director of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, will be responsible for overseeing the Oklahoma Department of Transportation if confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate. Ostrowe will serve a Digital Secretary without pay while continuing to serve as chief executive of his Oklahoma City-based restaurant management company. As Digital Secretary, Ostrowe will implement transformation across all state agencies as they deliver public services as well as regulate all state financial institutions.[56]

Post-Inaugural Civic EngagementEdit

At a prayer service held at the First Baptist Church of Moore, OK on January 15, 2019 following the prior day’s inaugural activities, Governor Kevin Stitt and First Lady Sarah Stitt announced a planned 77-county civic engagement initiative to mobilize citizens, civic leaders, non-profit agencies, service clubs and faith groups to help and assist the social services efforts of government with local community initiatives. The social services initiatives would seek community support for persons with disabilities, as well as neglected, abused and disadvantaged children and the unemployed adults, teen pregnancies, drug/alcohol problems, the unmet needs of economically disadvantaged and re-integration of non-violent offenders back into society. First Lady Sarah Stitt said to rousing applause that she would use her platform and 77-county civic initiative to “change people’s lives for the better.” The innovative civic engagement plan uses a volunteer community group effort approach rather than law, for civic and social services and community reconciliation efforts within the boundaries of The Establishment Clause of First Amendment to the United States Constitution as defined by the Supreme Court's Lemon Test from the case of Lemon v. Kurtzman. The community strategies were developed during the campaign which include "over 300 Town Hall Meetings" where the candidate listened to the concerns of people of the state. [57]

Policy stancesEdit

Stitt is a “political outsider,” meaning he has never run for any public office before. Throughout his time on the campaign trail, Stitt has expressed his vision is to lead Oklahoma to become a Top Ten state.[58][59] His platform focuses on five pillars: government efficiency, education, economic growth, infrastructure, and healthcare.[60]

Government efficiencyEdit

Stitt’s main message on the campaign trail focuses on bringing accountability, efficiency, and transparency to Oklahoma’s government.[61]

Earlier this year, the Stitt for Governor campaign launched their OK Turnaround plan, which focuses on government transparency.[62]

Education policyEdit

Since the beginning of Stitt’s campaign, he has called for Oklahoma teachers to be paid a competitive wage. Talking with the Tulsa World in October 2017, Stitt stated, “If we want to recruit great teachers, we have to pay competitive salaries. If we want to attract and retain great jobs, we’ve got to have great schools.”[58]

Stitt hosted roundtable meetings with educators, parents, superintendents, and education policy experts in Oklahoma in order to create a comprehensive plan for Oklahoma’s education system. On October 8, 2018, the Stitt for Governor campaign launched the Oklahoma Turnaround Plan for Education.[63]

Economic growthEdit

Stitt has labeled himself as the only job creator and proven businessman in the race for governor.[64]

According to his platform, Stitt will focus on taking advantage of President Trump's tax cuts, recruiting new job creators to Oklahoma, expanding commerce, and cutting red-tape in order to grow and diversify the state's economy.[65]

In an interview with the City of Enid, Stitt stated, "I love what is happening nationally, the economy is really starting to take off. There is a move now to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. to repatriate dollars. I believe we've got a great opportunity over the next ten years to capture that growth... We just need a business leader as governor, somebody that understands how to recruit businesses, how to cut red tape and how to get our state growing again."[66]

AbortionEdit

Stitt received a 100% Pro-Life score from Oklahomans for Life.[67]

Gun rightsEdit

Stitt supports strong Second Amendment rights. In an email to a CNHI reporter, Stitt stated, "As governor, I will defend Oklahomans’ rights in the U.S. Constitution, to include Oklahomans’ right to bear arms. I don’t believe in punishing law-abiding gun owners for the atrocious and illegal actions of an individual. We need to enforce the safety laws in place and provide support for the deep, systematic problems in our society that lead to violence.”[68]

Personal lifeEdit

Stitt is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation as a descendant of his great-grandfather, Robert Benton Dawson. Dawson was given land in the Skiatook area because of his tribal citizenship, and the land is still in the family, now owned by an uncle of Stitt's.[2] Kevin Stitt's maternal grandparents were dairy farmers in Skiatook. Stitt's paternal grandfather was formerly the head veterinarian at the Oklahoma City Stockyards.[69]

Stitt married Sarah Hazen in 1998 and they have six children. Stitt and his wife are active in their church in Tulsa, Woodlake Church.[70]

Electoral historyEdit

June 26, 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary[71]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Mick Cornett 132,806 29.3
Republican Kevin Stitt 110,479 24.4
Republican Todd Lamb 107,985 23.9
Republican Dan Fisher 35,818 7.9
Republican Gary Jones 25,243 5.6
Republican Gary Richardson 18,185 4.0
Republican Blake Stephens 12,211 2.7
Republican Christopher Barnett 5,240 1.2
Republican Barry Gowdy 2,347 0.5
Republican Eric Foutch 2,292 0.5
Total votes 452,606 100.0
August 28, 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary runoff[72]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Kevin Stitt 164,892 54.56
Republican Mick Cornett 137,316 45.44
Total votes 302,208 100.0
2018 Oklahoma gubernatorial election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Kevin Stitt 644,579 54.33%
Democratic Drew Edmondson 500,973 42.23%
Libertarian Chris Powell 40,833 3.44%
Total votes 1,186,385 100.0%
Republican hold

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit

Party political offices
Preceded by
Mary Fallin
Republican nominee for Governor of Oklahoma
2018
Most recent
Political offices
Preceded by
Mary Fallin
Governor of Oklahoma
2019–present
Incumbent