Governor Mary Fallin announced Monday the appointment of Secretary of State Chris Benge as Native American liaison within the governor’s office.
The governor also issued an executive order establishing her Cabinet for her second four-year term. Benge, a member of the Cherokee Nation, will now serve as secretary of state and Native American affairs.
He succeeds Jacque Secondine Hensley, who had advised the governor on American Indian affairs since July 2012.
Hensley has accepted a position with the Department of Human Services, where she will work on a variety of Native American issues.
“Jacque has done an outstanding job in facilitating good relations and communication between the tribes and the governor’s office,” said Fallin. “She will be missed, and I wish her all the best in her new endeavor.”
Fallin named Benge to serve as secretary of state in November 2013. He served as speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 2008 until he was term-limited as a legislator in 2010. He also served as House Appropriations and Budget Committee chairman from December 2004 until February 2008.
“Chris is a trusted member of my Cabinet and adviser on policy, economic and legislative issues,” Fallin said. “As secretary of state, he also deals with officials from other countries who visit Oklahoma and works with them on trade and other issues. He will now extend that same mission to our tribes, which have a valuable and unique impact on Oklahoma’s economy and our culture.”
Benge said he is looking forward to the challenge.
“Whether it’s creating jobs, improving health care services or boosting education, Oklahoma has an extremely valuable partnership with the tribes,” said Benge. “The tribes have an estimated $10.8 billion impact in the state’s production of goods and services, with tribal government and business operations employing more than 50,000 people, and supporting nearly 90,000 full-time jobs in the state. The relationship between the tribes and the state has developed momentum over the last few years. I’m looking forward to continuing to facilitate the good relationship between the state and the tribes.”
Fallin’s executive order establishes her Cabinet to be made up of 12 secretaries. The governor during her first term had 13 secretaries; she is combining commerce and tourism into one position.
The governor’s Cabinet secretaries, in addition to Benge, are:
• Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese
• Secretary of Commerce and Tourism Deby Snodgrass
• Secretary of Education and Workforce Development Natalie Shirley
• Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague
• Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology Preston Doerflinger
• Secretary of Health and Human Services Terry Cline
• Secretary of the Military Maj. Gen. Robbie L. Asher
• Secretary of Safety and Security Michael Thompson
• Secretary of Science and Technology Stephen McKeever
• Secretary of Transportation Gary Ridley
• Secretary of Veterans Affairs Maj. Gen. Myles Deering