A longtime executive of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority will head the agency that oversees the state's 10 turnpikes.
The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority — which manages the second-largest turnpike system in the country — named Tim Stewart, the agency's deputy director and chief operating officer, to serve as its next director.
Stewart, 49, will start his new duties April 1. His annual salary will be $133,000.
Stewart, of Edmond, has been with the turnpike authority for 28 years. A graduate of Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City with a degree in civil engineering, he started out as a maintenance worker on the H.E. Bailey Turnpike and worked his way up through the organization. He has been deputy director and chief operating officer since 2005.
“We're good as an organization because of the people who work here,” Stewart said. “We have a strong staff and a good staff that have been diligent and worked hard to create a strong environment and a strong organization. I appreciate their expertise, support and help and couldn't be what I am today without their help and diligence.”
Authority members met for about 15 minutes in closed, executive session Friday before voting unanimously in an open meeting to promote Stewart.
“I don't think we could have a finer selection,” said Albert C. Kelly, chairman of the turnpike authority. “He's the best person for this job in the country, period.”
“We were very comfortable … with the fact that Tim has grown up through the ranks,” said authority member Gene Love. “We were totally convinced that there's just nobody else we could find anyplace else in the country.”
Stewart will succeed Gary Ridley, who serves as director of both the turnpike authority and the Oklahoma Transportation Commission. Ridley, who will retire from both positions March 31, will remain on the governor's Cabinet as secretary of transportation.
The turnpike authority and the Transportation Department, the 15th largest transportation agency in the country, will have separate directors, which is typical.
“It's important that a director can focus on the full attention of the agency and this will allow that to happen,” Ridley said.
Ridley has served as director of both agencies since 2009. Ridley's annual salary is $133,200; he doesn't receive compensation for his Cabinet position. In the 1990s, Neal McCaleb also served as director of the turnpike authority and the Transportation Department, as well as a Cabinet secretary of transportation.
The Oklahoma Transportation Commission is expected to name a new director for the Transportation Department at its March 4 meeting.