He has been involved in talks aimed at resolving a federal lawsuit filed in 2011 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.
Slater was a newspaper reporter when he was named in 1971 to serve as secretary of the state Senate, which includes the post of overseeing the state’s elections as secretary of the Oklahoma Election Board.
Since leaving state government, Slater also has been hired to do legal work the past 20 years for the Senate.
Slater said Coffee is “a unique and perfect fit” to take over his practice and the needs of his clients.
“A law practice is more than a service business; it is a fragile relationship of trust between a lawyer and his client not easily established and easily besmirched if it is not well tended,” he said. “In accepting this state position, I have been concerned about the organizations and individuals who have relied on me the past 25 years. … I am so pleased that he is available.”
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.
During his tenure as state Election Board secretary, Slater launched a comprehensive program that led to mandatory training for 15,000 election officials, including county and precinct officials and voter registrars. He was instrumental in the 1974 rewriting of all Oklahoma’s election laws for the first time in state history, and he developed voter information programs.