Secretary of State Glenn Coffee, one of Gov. Mary Fallin’s top advisers and a member of her Cabinet, is leaving after serving two years in the post.
Coffee, appointed to the post after Fallin took office in January 2011, said Friday he will pursue opportunities in the private sector. He intends to leave by Jan. 31.
Coffee, a former state senator and the first Republican in Oklahoma history to serve as a GOP leader of the Senate, said there were no rifts with any of the governor’s staff that led to his departure.
“Absolutely false,” he told The Oklahoman. “I’ve always had run-ins with people, but that doesn’t mean that there’s any hard feelings. That’s not what’s driving this at all.”
The decision was partly financial, said Coffee, 45. He has four children, the oldest of whom is in college. His annual salary is $88,036, according to state financial records.
“Those are some of the realities that I’m facing,” said Coffee, who served 12 years in the Senate and couldn’t seek re-election in 2010 because of legislative term limits. “Oklahomans have made that clear with term limits. That’s what they want to see people do — do their public service and then go back to the private sector.”
Coffee, who was an attorney in private practice before accepting the secretary of state’s post, wrote in his resignation letter to the governor that he is on “‘Team Fallin’ for life.”
“You have assembled a tremendous team in whom I have the utmost confidence,” he wrote. “If I didn’t have the needs of my family to consider I suspect I would have to be pried out of this building.”
Timeline of service
Coffee, of Oklahoma City, was elected to the Senate in 1998 and was the first Republican to lead the Senate when the GOP gained control of the chamber for the first time after the 2008 elections. After his term expired in November 2010, he served as co-chairman of Fallin’s transition team.
Fallin, elected governor in November 2010, named Coffee secretary of state in January 2011, shortly before she took office.
The state constitution prohibits a legislator from working for a state agency within two years of leaving office unless the salary comes from private or federal funds, but former legislators may take paid positions with the state if they are paid with funds not appropriated from the Legislature. More than 93 percent of the secretary of state’s budget comes from nonappropriated funds, such as fees, according to the state finance officials.
Fallin said Coffee brought a wealth of experience to the Capitol.
“He’s mentioned to me several times that he’s got to think about his family and his family’s future and that he just wanted to serve as long as he felt like he could,” she said. “I’ve been very grateful for his service to the state of Oklahoma. ... I certainly understand that he’s got family concerns he needs to take care of.”
Coffee is the second to leave Fallin’s Cabinet. Oscar Jackson retired from state service and stepped down in September 2011 as secretary of human resources and administration.
Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger will assume Coffee’s responsibilities as Fallin’s lead budget negotiator, the governor’s office said.
Coffee also has been involved in talks aimed at resolving a federal lawsuit filed last year by the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations to stop Oklahoma’s plans to draw water from Sardis Lake in Pushmataha County and deliver it to Oklahoma City.
The Fallin administration plans to retain Coffee as an outside consultant on water issues, although details of that arrangement have not been finalized, according to the governor’s office.
The office of the secretary of state serves as a registry of Oklahoma’s official documents, filing and certifying executive orders, appointments and proclamations as well as publishing new statutes.
“It’s been a great opportunity, I’ve enjoyed it all,” Coffee said.