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Top candidates emerge for DHS director's post

A former U.S. ambassador to South Africa and a retired Tennessee DHS deputy commissioner have emerged as the top two candidates to serve as the new director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
by Nolan Clay and Randy Ellis and Robby Trammell Published: May 6, 2012

©Copyright 2012 The Oklahoman

A former U.S. ambassador to South Africa and a retired Tennessee DHS deputy commissioner have emerged as the top two candidates to serve as the new director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

The nine-member Oklahoma Commission for Human Services will select the new director. Commissioners are expected to break up into small groups to interview the two candidates Wednesday, a spokeswoman said. No vote is expected.

A search committee has narrowed its list of top candidates to Eric Bost, former U.S. ambassador to South Africa, and Ed Lake, a retired deputy commissioner of the Department of Human Services in Tennessee, The Oklahoman has learned.

Bost served as commissioner and chief executive officer of the Texas Department of Human Services from 1997 to 2001.

He then served as undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture before becoming U.S. ambassador to South Africa in 2006 during President George W. Bush's administration.

Bost later served as Texas A&M's vice president for global initiatives from January 2009 until the end of 2010, when the university abolished his position as part of a broader reorganization of the academic affairs office, according to The Bryan-College Station Eagle's website.

The other candidate, Lake, made a career out of working for the Department of Human Services in Tennessee. He served 39 years there — working his way up through the ranks before retiring as deputy commissioner in February 2011.

“He is a great guy and I say that as a professional adversary,” said Gordon Bonnyman Jr., executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, an advocacy group for vulnerable Tennesseans that frequently clashes with the Tennessee DHS.

Tennessee Justice Center officials thought so highly of Lake that they wrote an article praising him after his retirement was announced.

“Throughout his tenure, Ed proved himself an extremely ethical, dedicated official with great integrity,” the Feb. 28, 2011, article said. “As deputy commissioner, he focused on the big picture, but never lost sight of the individual impact that DHS has.”

The search committee has been working behind closed doors to narrow the list of about 55 candidates to the two that remain.

“The candidates who we are interviewing are both very impressive, and I'm very pleased that we are at this point with these people,” said Wes Lane, a DHS commissioner and member of the search committee. “I like both of these guys very much. I think both of them would do a great job.”

Rejecting both candidates and searching elsewhere remains an option, commissioners said.

“Out of the group of candidates, we have narrowed it to two, but we may want to expand our search a little further and consider other options,” said Commissioner Richard DeVaughn.

Commissioners are searching for a successor to Howard Hendrick, who resigned as Oklahoma's DHS director earlier this year after spending 13 years as head of Oklahoma's largest state agency.

The person chosen as the new director will assume leadership at a challenging time. The agency recently settled a massive federal class-action lawsuit over the alleged maltreatment of children in state care and is in the midst of developing an ambitious reform plan.

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by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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by Randy Ellis
Investigative 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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by Robby Trammell
Assistant Managing Editor
Robby Trammell is news director for The Oklahoman and During his 41-year career, he has received numerous reporting awards and civic honors. With The Oklahoman’s investigative team, he won a first-place spot news reporting award for...
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