Exclusive CEO group members help fill out Stitt administration

Governor Kevin Stitt speaks to Oklahoma Watch reporter Paul Monies at the Capitol on March 26, 2019. Whitney Bryen/Oklahoma Watch

With no background in government or politics, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has leaned on his business background to find people to serve in his administration.

And like many business leaders, he's turned to both personal and formal networks. One of those got noticed in some circles: YPO, formerly the Young Presidents Organization.

Stitt, who built Gateway Mortgage Group into one of the country's largest mortgage companies, has picked three cabinet members and one agency director who share his membership in the exclusive, invitation-only network of executives.

YPO has chapters in Oklahoma City and Tulsa and offers executive coaching and leadership development to a global network of 27,000 members. To qualify, members must run or hold top positions in companies that meet sales, asset or enterprise value benchmarks before they turn 45. Annual dues are $3,525, and local chapters can also assess dues.

Among Stitt's 15-member cabinet, three are YPO members: Jerome R. Loughridge, secretary of health and mental health; David C. Ostrowe, secretary of digital transformation and administration, and Sean P. Kouplen, secretary of commerce and workforce development. Justin B. Brown, the new director of the Department of Human Services, is also a YPO member.

YPO stresses confidentiality, so members don't talk much about the organization's meetings or forums. Chapters host forums and retreats, including activities for spouses and children.

Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that produces in-depth and investigative content on a range of public-policy issues facing the state. For more Oklahoma Watch content, go to oklahomawatch.org.