The Oklahoma Commission for Human Services has offered the job of director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to retired Tennessee DHS Deputy Commissioner Ed Lake.
Lake has not yet accepted the job offer; he told commissioners he would talk to his wife and get back to them. The commission offered him a salary of $185,000 a year, plus a $5,000 signing bonus if he stays on the job for at least one year.
Commissioners announced last month they had narrowed their list of director candidates to Lake after a lengthy search.
Lake was expected to talk with the governor before going through a final closed-session interview with DHS commissioners.
The governor's approval of Lake has been deemed critical by DHS commissioners because Oklahomans will vote in November on a proposal to abolish the nine-member DHS Commission and replace it with a group of four advisory panels, with the director to be appointed by the governor.
Commission Chairman Wes Lane had said the commission would like to appoint someone the governor will want to retain if the state question is approved. He said continuity is critical to the agency as it goes through a series of reforms as part of a court-approved settlement of a Tulsa class-action lawsuit that helped focus public attention on the deaths and abuse of children in state custody.
Lake worked 39 years for the Tennessee Department of Human Services — starting out as a front-line worker and working his way up to deputy commissioner — before retiring in February 2011.
Gordon Bonnyman Jr., executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, described Lake as a “great guy” and “very able administrator” during a May interview with The Oklahoman.
Bonnyman said Lake distinguished himself when Tennessee experienced massive flooding two years ago.
“He just moved heaven and earth to get emergency food stamp … benefits out to people who had no previous experience with that whole set of benefits. He got out there in a way that respected their dignity and made it very accessible in circumstances in which much of the infrastructure was in shreds.”
Commissioners have been searching for a successor to Howard Hendrick, who resigned as Oklahoma's DHS director this year after spending 13 years as head of Oklahoma's largest state agency.