DHS officials on Tuesday began work on selecting a new director, cutting down the list of candidates from 54 to 17.
“The people of Oklahoma deserve the very best, and we intend to find that person,” said Brad Yarbrough, chairman of the commission that oversees the Department of Human Services.
The nine volunteer commissioners want to choose a new director by July 1. Applications for the job were due Monday. Commissioners intend to start interviewing the candidates in a few weeks.
Yarbrough said commissioners were really excited about a handful of the candidates. He said his reaction to others, though, was: “Are you kidding?”
DHS advertised the opening on 107 websites after Director Howard Hendrick announced in January he was retiring. Hendrick made $162,750 a year. His last day was Feb. 29. He served as director more than 13 years.
The director is the top job at Oklahoma's largest agency. The director is in charge of more than 7,000 employees and a budget of more than $2 billion.
The position can be unpopular. Hendrick often was the focus of public criticism when children in DHS care were killed.
Commissioners intend to hire an executive search firm to find more candidates if no one is hired from the current list. Commissioners Tuesday voted to get bids from search firms just in case.
“This is one of the most important, vital, critical undertakings of the commission at the current time,” Yarbrough said.