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OK Policy Institute to host 10th anniversary celebration

COM-OKPolicyGala-Photo 1
By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The Oklahoma Policy Institute will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a gala celebration on Thursday, September 13.  The event will take place at the Oklahoma City Farmer’s Market, 311 S. Klein Avenue with a reception from 6 – 6:45 p.m., followed by dinner and ceremony.

“In our short history, OK Policy has already changed the course of the state in ways that benefit all Oklahomans thanks to our talented staff, dedicated Board of Directors, and committed donors,” said David Blatt, who helped found the Tulsa-based organization in 2008 and has served as Executive Director since 2010. “Policymakers, community leaders, advocates, and citizens know to turn to OK Policy for the information they need to engage in well-informed debates and to make thoughtful decisions.”

The evening’s keynote speaker will be Ian Frazier, the award-winning humorist and feature writer for The New Yorker magazine.

Frazier became a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine in 1974. His writes humor pieces, essays, and longer works of reporting for the New Yorker and other publications.  His books include Great Plains, On the Rez, and Travels in Siberia; his collections of humor pieces, Coyote v. Acme and Lamentations of the Father both won the Thurber Prize for American Humor (1997 and 2009). He is the only writer to have won the prize twice.

A Harvard graduate Frazier grew up in Hudson, Ohio has lived in New York and Montana and now resides in Montclair, New Jersey. His wife is the short-story writer and novelist Jacqueline Carey. Their daughter, Cora, also writes humor for The New Yorker and their son, Thomas, lives in Moscow.

The event will honor Sandy Garrett and Kris Steele with OK Policy’s Good Sense/Good Cents Award, which recognizes a lifetime of civic engagement based on respectful political dialogue, sound fiscal stewardship, and concern for the less fortunate.

“Sandy Garrett and Kris Steele’s long careers of public service are living examples for how Oklahoma can tackle its toughest policy challenges through bipartisan cooperation and civil dialogue,” said Don Millican, CFO of Kaiser Francis Oil Company, who has been on OK Policy’s board since its founding and currently serves as board chair.

Previous honorees are Melvin Moran, Robert LaFortune, and Gov. Henry Bellmon.

Steele, a Republican from Shawnee, served twelve years in the Legislature, including as House Speaker from 2010-2012. During his time in office, he worked on a number of reforms in the areas of health care, human services and criminal justice.

He is currently the Executive Director of TEEM, a nonprofit dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty and incarceration, and chair of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, a coalition comprised of community groups, business leaders, health professionals and faith leaders dedicated to advancing effective approaches to public safety.

Steele is a member of the Pardon and Parole Board and a Trustee of the Sarkeys Foundation.

Kris will be introduced at the dinner by former Governor Brad Henry.

Garrett, a Democrat from Muskogee, served as Secretary of Education for Gov. Henry Bellmon (Republican0 and won election five times as State Superintendent of Instruction, holding office from 1990-2010. Garret worked with Bellmon during the passage of HB 1017, Oklahoma’s Education Reform Act of 1990.

Garrett received her bachelor’s and Masters degrees from Northeastern State University and postgraduate education at the University of Oklahoma and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She was a classroom teacher for 15 years. She would later become the State Department of Education’s Executive Director of Education Programs. 

Sandy will be introduced at the dinner by her son Chuck Garrett, Executive Vice-President of Cherokee Nation Businesses and a member of OK Policy’s Board of Directors.

“It’s going to be a fun celebration with The New Yorker’s Ian Frazier as our keynote speaker and awards for Sandy Garrett and Kris Steele,” said Blatt. “For those from the Tulsa area wanting to attend, we’re providing free bus transportation to and from the dinner. We’re expecting a full house, so don’t wait to get your tickets.”

The bus will leave at 4 p.m. from the OK Policy Institue Tulsa office at 907 S. Detroit Avenue and return after the dinner. Guests are asked to park in the visitors’ lot across Detroit from the Sun Building on 10th Street. Click here to reserve bus space or email Shiloh Skantz at
[email protected] for more details.

Event sponsors include Arnall Family Foundation, George Krumme & Aldean Newcomb, Don & Donna Millican, Charles & Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Cherokee Nation Businesses, Chickasaw Nation, Citizen Potawatomi Nation/Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corporation, Charles W. Flint, III, George Kaiser Family Foundation, Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation, P. Vincent LoVoi, NBC Oklahoma, Ruth Nelson, Oklahoma Education Association, Gene Rainbolt, Anne & Henry Zarrow Foundation and ACLU of Oklahoma.

With a 13-member staff, OK Policy Institute has recently added several new projects, including KIDS COUNT, Open Justice Oklahoma, and the Oklahoma Mental Health Policy Fellowship. These projects are expanding OK Policy’s efforts to reduce the toughest barriers to economic opportunity and good health for Oklahoma families.

The organization also played an essential role in this year’s historic bipartisan approval of a much needed teacher pay raise.

“We are looking forward to a fun, lively evening, where we will celebrate OK Policy’s achievements and look ahead to the future,” said event chair Susan Chambers, MD, a founding member of OKC Gyn/Ob Inc., Lakeside Women’s Hospital, and MedEncentive.

Individual Gala event tickets can be purchased online for $100. To purchase tickets by phone, call 918-794-3944. To make a donation in honor of OK Policy Institute’s 10th anniversary, click here. The deadline to purchase tickets is September 7.

Sponsorships for full tables and half tables are available by contacting Shiloh Kantz at 918-794-3944 or [email protected].  For more information, visit

The Oklahoma Policy Institute will honor Sandy Garrett and Kris Steele with its Good Sense/Good Cents Award on Sept. 13 at Oklahoma City Farmer’s Market. File photos
The Oklahoma Policy Institute will honor Sandy Garrett and Kris Steele with its Good Sense/Good Cents Award on Sept. 13 at Oklahoma City Farmer’s Market. File photos
Award-winning humorist and feature writer for The New Yorker magazine. Wikipedia photo
Ian Frazier, award-winning humorist and feature writer for The New Yorker magazine. Wikipedia photo

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