Stitt Replaces Embattled Health Commissioner With Top Air National Guard Doctor

May 22, 2020

Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Friday morning his pick for a new interim director of the State Department of Health.

Col. Lance Frye, a Tulsa resident, is currently serving as the State Air Surgeon of the Oklahoma Air National Guard, a role he said he will continue in during his time as health commissioner. Frye is also an OB/GYN and professor at the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences.

"Col. Frye is the right leader at the right time," Stitt said in his announcement from the Capitol on Friday.

"He has been an integral part of our COVID-19 response," said Oklahoma Secretary of Health Jerome Loughridge, citing Frye's role in developing the state's hospital surge plan during the pandemic.

“Governor Stitt has said his number one goal is to protect the health and lives of Oklahomans, and that is a mission I am honored to carry out," Frye said in a statement. "We are all in this together, and I am confident we will continue the great progress we have made in our fight against COVID-19.”

Stitt said he hopes Frye will be confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate to transition from interim commissioner to serve in a permanent capacity.

Stitt's previous interim health commissioner, Gary Cox, was rebuffed by the state senate because he did not meet statutory requirements for the post under Oklahoma law. Cox and his department were also the target of a recent investigation by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, which Stitt called "disappointing."

A spokesperson for Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R-Oklahoma City) told KWGS that it's "premature to comment on what level of support he has or doesn't have in the Senate."