Inhofe, McCaleb cheer Fallin’s decision retaining Ridley at transportation

 U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe
and the leader of a key private association advocating transportation
improvements in Oklahoma have applauded the decision of Governor-elect
Mary Fallin, announced this week, to retain Secretary of Transportation
Gary Ridley.

In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, dean of the
Oklahoma congressional delegation, said: “I am pleased that
Governor-elect Mary Fallin has decided to retain my good friend Gary
Ridley as Oklahoma’s Secretary of Transportation. Throughout the years,
Gary’s dedicated service to Oklahoma has proven invaluable.

“Simply put, he is the best Secretary of Transportation in the country. I
look forward to working with both Governor-elect Fallin and Secretary
Ridley to meet Oklahoma’s transportation needs.”

Inhofe is the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Neal McCaleb, president of the T.R.U.S.T. Road and Bridge Coalition, echoed Inhofe’s acclaim.

In an interview with CapitolBeatOK, McCaleb said, “In my judgment, Gary
Ridley is the best director/secretary of Transportation in Oklahoma
history, and I say that without any false modesty. I applaud the
announcement from Governor-elect Mary Fallin.”

McCaleb served as secretary of Transportation for both Henry Bellmon and
Frank Keating, former Republican governors of the state. He has also
served at the federal level, and is a well-known member of the Chickasaw

Fallin said Ridley will retain his role as secretary, and also serve as
director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and of the state
Turnpike Authority jobs he has held in the latter years of Gov. Brad
Henry’s administration.

In a press release sent to CapitolBeatOK, Fallin said, “Gary has been
serving Oklahoma’s transportation needs for over four decades. I’ve
worked with him as a state representative, as lieutenant governor and as
a United States Congresswoman on the Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee, and I can attest to Gary’s unparalleled expertise and
dedication. I’m glad to have him on my team.”

Ridley was named secretary in 2009 by Governor Brad Henry. He has
directed the Transportation Department since 2001, and held the turnpike
post since October 2009. He is a career transportation specialist,
having started at the agency in 1965 as an equipment operator. He served
several years in the late 1990s as executive director of the Oklahoma
Asphalt Paving Association.

According to the Fallin transition team’s press release, during Ridley’s
tenure, “the number of bad bridges has been reduced and safety
features, such as life-saving cable barriers, have become commonplace on
Oklahoma’s highways. Ridley also improved the process of preparing the
department’s eight-year Construction Work Plan. With funding increases
for transportation, he was able to firm-up commitments made in the
fiscally constrained plan, particularly those during the first three

Last year, Ridley made quick use of federal stimulus funds to fill in a
backlog of Oklahoma road and bridge projects, without drawing the
critical analyses that marked the stimulus process in some states.