Kitt Letcher started May 20 as president and chief executive of the Better Business Bureau of Central Oklahoma, but don't ask her for a business card, yet.
She put off ordering them until this past week — so that she could take advantage of bulk cost savings on cards for her staff, which she's doubled to eight, to better handle the thousands of inquiries her organization fields annually.
One new hire's sole job will be handling the yearly accreditation of its some 2,000 member companies, which pay annual dues of $375 and up, depending on the size of their respective organizations.
“Companies are evaluated every year,” Letcher said, “to ensure they're still meeting the standards by which they were accredited on day one.”
Consumers bring numerous issues before the organization, she said. Complaints range from companies allegedly pressing people into buying things they don't need to contractors demanding upfront payment from consumers and then leaving work incomplete.
“We want to make people aware of the dangers and what to look out for,” Letcher said, pointing to her organization's website as a great tool for researching firms.
From her offices at 17 S Dewey, Letcher sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about her professional and personal life. This is an edited transcript:
Q: Is Kitt short for Katherine?
A: No, it's my given name, and I love it. You know those websites you can search to see who else has your name? Well, I'm the only Kitt Letcher out there. Of the people named Kitt I've met, there've been a lot more men than women.
Q: Tell us about your roots.
A: My father, who taught Oklahoma history and coached wrestling and tennis in Sapulpa, and mother, who retired from American Airlines as supervisor of engine records, divorced when I was 3 and my brother and sister were 12 and 13. I lived with my mom in south Jenks, but went to school in Tulsa — Monte Cassino and then Holland Hall. From fifth grade through high school, I took English-style horseback riding lessons for the pure joy of it. I also took piano and played the flute in the high school orchestra, along with competing in cross country and field hockey.
Q: What made you choose the University of Tulsa for college, versus going away to school?
A: My mom and sister had gone there. When I was a preschooler, my mom went back to school at night and, while my grandparents watched me, completed her degree in finance. I loved TU. I pledged Delta Gamma and lived in the sorority house my sophomore year. My junior year, I spent six months in London for a really fun internship, managing a roving citywide exhibit on Russian art and how it'd changed over the decades.
Q: What was your first real job?
A: I worked six months in the marketing department of the Tulsa Airport Authority, giving airport tours to school groups. It was early 2001, and before 9-11, so I could take students through security, onto airplanes between flights and down on the tarmac. It was fun.
Q: Your work experience before the BBB is in nonprofit. Tell us about that.
A: I worked two years as community relations director for Camp Fire USA Green Country Council, managing candy sales, fundraising and public relations. The past eight years, before joining the BBB, I served as director of United Way for Canadian County, overseeing the Heart of the City campaign for the city of Oklahoma City among other things. Moving from United Way to the Better Business Bureau has been a great transition for me. The BBB has been the challenge I was looking for, while keeping the purpose of helping make my community be a better place to live. At the end of the day, I like knowing the work I'm doing makes someone else's life better.
Q: You're a Tulsa native. How did you come to settle in Oklahoma City?
A: My husband, Stuart, is a pilot for the Air National Guard and is based here, though he's deployed for two to three months at a time and home for a couple of months in between. He left today for a week in Japan. The good news is we can Skype and talk most days. Now I'm very much an Oklahoma City girl. My time with the United Way and past involvement with Junior League was a big part in my feeling grounded in the community. We built and moved into a new home near the Edmond/Guthrie line in January of last year. We're here to stay.