Dave Lopez will resign next month as director of the state Commerce Department after a year and a half in the post, but will remain commerce secretary in Gov. Mary Fallin’s cabinet.
Fallin appointed Jonna Kirschner, Commerce Department deputy director, to succeed Lopez on Dec. 1, agency spokesman Don Hackler said Friday.
Lopez, 61, said freeing himself from the daily responsibilities of running the 124-employee agency would provide him with more time to focus on Oklahoma’s economic development.
“Having two jobs at a time that we have a governor so engaged and where we have so much opportunity, it really started to become a limiter on how much we can get done,” Lopez said. “It really will relieve me of time constraints that had to come with running the day-to-day operations. It gives us more firepower to take advantage of the good times that Oklahoma is experiencing.”
Lopez likened his new role to the board chairman of a private company, with Kirschner serving as chief executive officer.
By state statute, Lopez is paid a salary of $112,500, the higher pay of the two jobs he currently holds. On Dec. 1, his salary will revert to the $70,000 salary of a cabinet secretary, while Kirschner will begin earning $112,500 as agency director.
Kirschner, 50, has served as deputy director and general counsel at the Commerce Department since 2003. She managed the legal division, including the Quality Jobs Program and directed the operations of the Business Customer Services Division, the Public Information Office, the Regional Development Specialists and the Oklahoma Main Street Program.
“I’m so honored to serve on the governor’s team — that she would select me,” Kirschner said. “I think to promote someone internally shows the great deal of confidence that she has in Secretary Lopez and Commerce.”
Fallin, in a statement, thanked Lopez for his “creativity, dedication and leadership” as agency director.
“He has served as an enthusiastic and effective advocate for the state of Oklahoma as we work to grow our economy and build a more prosperous state,” Fallin said.
“He will be missed in the day-to-day operation of the Commerce Department, but we will continue to rely on his expertise as secretary of commerce in my cabinet.”
Kirschner says she anticipates no major changes in the agency when she takes over.
“Dave has come in and done a great job,” she said. “He did some reorganization when he first came. ... He’s already done a lot of the hard work.”