Tennessee man accepts Oklahoma DHS director's job

Ed Lake has accepted the job as director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
by Randy Ellis Modified: October 15, 2012 at 9:24 pm •  Published: October 15, 2012
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If that should happen, the governor would appoint the DHS director.

Fallin said she has no plans to replace Lake if State Question 765 is approved.

39 years of experience

Lake served 39 years with the Tennessee Department of Human Services. He worked his way up through the ranks, holding such positions as child welfare caseworker, food stamp office supervisor, county and regional director and assistant and deputy commissioner.

He retired from that agency in 2011.

Lake holds a bachelor's degree in social welfare from East Tennessee State University and a master's degree in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

As DHS director, he will earn a salary of $185,000 a year, plus a $5,000 signing bonus if he stays on the job at least a year.

Lake will be taking over leadership of an agency that has come under considerable legislative and public scrutiny because of the deaths of children in its care.

One of his primary responsibilities will be overseeing the implementation of a five-year reform plan, called the Pinnacle Plan, which was developed as part of a settlement agreement to a Tulsa federal class-action lawsuit over the care of children in state custody.

Lake voiced strong familiarity with provisions of the plan that calls for decreasing caseloads, improving training, enhancing support from management, recruiting more foster homes and decreasing use of state shelters.

“I think it's a good plan,” Lake said. “It's got the components that would lead to a successful child welfare system. Now, getting there with the ambitious time frame and a lot of the ambitious elements of the plan, that's going to be a challenge. But you've got to do it. It hasn't got anything to do with the legalities of the agreement. Those are the right things to do.”

“We all want that department to be the department that Oklahomans want,” he said.

Lake said that means operating an agency that cares about people and said that caring should be obvious to people outside the agency.

“We want to become known for our competency and our willingness to go the extra mile to protect children and help adults, and do what we're supposed to do,” Lake said.

DHS is Oklahoma's largest state agency with about 7,000 employees. The agency has a total budget of about $2.3 billion, including federal programs. The agency was appropriated $587 million in state dollars for fiscal year 2012, said Sheree Powell, spokeswoman for the agency.

Lake will succeed Howard Hendrick, who announced his retirement earlier this year.

Preston Doerflinger has been serving as interim director. Doerflinger will now go back to his former position as director of the Office of State Finance.


by Randy Ellis
Capitol Bureau Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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