Tuesday, June 5, 2018
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today announced Labor Commissioner Melissa McLawhorn Houston will serve on her executive Cabinet as secretary of education and workforce development.
Houston begins her new duties effective immediately.
“The best way we can support our businesses and grow our economy is to produce a more educated workforce. Aligning our education and workforce training programs to provide relevant work skills is the best way to keep job growth strong,” said Fallin. “Commissioner Houston has the skills and knowledge to ensure Oklahoma public education and our business communities cooperate to increase educational attainment in Oklahoma.”
Fallin appointed Houston labor commissioner in the fall of 2015, to fulfill the remainder of then-Labor Commissioner Mark Costello’s term. Before that, Houston served as chief of staff and policy adviser in the Oklahoma attorney general’s office.
“I appreciate Governor Fallin’s confidence in me and the opportunity to further serve our great state,” said Houston. “At the Oklahoma Department of Labor, we have increased collaboration to advance our mission of promoting the welfare of the wage earner and we have spearheaded efforts to reform occupational licensing. Continuing to build partnerships in this new role to assist the governor’s efforts in developing a skilled, educated workforce in our state will be a priority. As a mom of two sons in the public school system, I look forward to learning more about all phases of our education ecosystem and ways to provide Oklahomans great opportunities to learn and pathways for entering the workforce.”
When she was appointed labor commissioner, Houston said she would not seek election to a full four-year term. She is an experienced administrator with extensive knowledge of state government. Before serving as the attorney general's chief of staff, Houston served for nine years (2002-2011) as the chief of staff for the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security. Prior to that, she served as deputy director for the Oklahoma Sheriffs Association and as an attorney for the Oklahoma Truth in Sentencing Policy Advisory Commission. She has a law degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Law.
Houston has extensive experience in state agency operational management, legislative process and budgeting. She has overseen and directed administrative operations of $30 million in the attorney general’s office and she oversaw and managed more than $170 million in federal programming and funds while chief of staff at the Office of Homeland Security.
Houston will also lead Fallin’s Oklahoma Works initiative, a statewide strategic plan, which seeks to align education to the needs of business and industry and to generate wealth-generating career pathways for students.
Education is one of the governor’s biggest priorities during her administration. She has pushed the past three years for teacher pay raises, culminating with this year’s approval of the largest teacher pay raise in the history of the state. Oklahoma teacher pay improved from last in the seven-state region to second for average annual pay, and from 49th in the nation to 29th. When taking into account the cost of living, Oklahoma teachers will be the 12th-highest-paid in the country. The teacher pay was one component of a 19.7 percent increase in state appropriations for K-12 public education for the upcoming fiscal year.