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during each session. He focused on re- solving fundamental problems during his legislative tenure. He helped secure fund- ing for transportation infrastructure to improve Oklahoma’s roads and bridges, as well as helped stabilize the OSU Medical Center, which trains physicians and treats impoverished citizens. He also focused on pension reform, government effi ciency, and responsible use of excess oil and gas tax collections. The topic of energy production steered the conversation toward energy security and eventually to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations that have the potential to hinder affordable and reliable electric power provided by Oklahoma’s rural electric cooperatives. “I am concerned about the assault on fossil fuels by the current administra- tion,” Benge said. “They seem to have a belief that we can have a society without fossil fuels, which is a fantasy. In the case of the EPA, assaulting coal is tying not just one hand, but both hands behind our back. I have always been an ‘all of the above’ person where we use a broad mix of sources to help meet our growing energy demands.” Benge praised Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives for the dogged approach to

Chris Benge enjoys spending time with his family. He is pictured with his wife Allison, daughter Hayden and son Garrett. Courtesy Photo

Benge hit his term limit, but it wasn’t back to painting just yet. Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett reached out to Benge and asked the respected legislator to help him make Tulsa a better community. Benge served as the director of Intergovernmental and Enterprise Development, running public policy and focusing on developing projects that aligned with his experi- ence—transportation, infrastructure and energy. After a year, Benge became the senior vice presi- dent of government affairs with the Tulsa Regional Chamber, leading the organization’s advocacy ef- forts at the state and federal level, as well as work- ing with city and county offi cials on local policy issues. The job was the perfect blend of politics and community engagement. Life was good. Benge settled for three years, content with his lot. Then his phone rang. Gov. Fallin called to see if he would like to re- turn to the Capitol as a member of her cabinet. “It just came out of the blue. I had a great job at

the Tulsa Chamber, which I enjoyed and enabled me to make a difference in my community,” he said. “But the governor’s call just blew me away. The more I thought about being part of shaping policy and setting the direction of the state, the

more excited I got. Secretary of state is a historic offi ce.”

fi ghting over-regulation and supplying an invaluable service to the rural communities. “Co-ops are extremely vital to this state. Think what our state would be like without them,” he said. “Rural Oklahoma has struggled as we see a continued pattern of people moving to larger cities. We need a vibrant rural Oklahoma, and co-ops play a signifi cant role in that process.”

Even when discussing topics that evoke passion, Benge demonstrated his conciliatory demeanor, a cornerstone characteristic that Tad Jones—his friend, fellow legislator and roommate—witnessed for 10 years.

Speaker and Sports Most voters probably do not give housing facilities for Oklahoma legislators

much thought; but, for the record, they don’t have a ritzy dormitory where they all comingle after hours. Each legislator must fi nd their own housing and for freshman like Benge and Jones, who were both elected in 1998, there was a strict budget. For the better part of a decade, Benge and Jones split the cost of a cheap hotel for the four months they were in session. Thus, Jones has been privy to the real Chris Benge. He has worked with him, eaten Taco Bueno with him and he’s watched sports with him. “You couldn’t fi nd anyone with higher character, values or dedication to his

family and his state,” said Jones, who now serves as the executive director of the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore. His steady, amiable approach to all of his political dealings helped transcend the proverbial party lines and made him an easy choice to replace the outgoing speaker of the House of Representatives. “He is respected by everyone—both sides of the aisle,” Jones said. “After my ninth year, I considered not running again, but when Chris became speaker I decided to stay because I had so much respect for him.” Benge served in the post for three years, focusing on budget stewardship and economic growth. Then the longtime sports enthusiast had the opportu- nity to carry the legislation that helped relocate the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics to Oklahoma City to become the Thunder. And then with the closing gavel in 2010, his legislative career was over.


Mr. Secretary Gov. Fallin appointed Benge as Oklahoma’s 33rd secretary of state on

November 8, 2013. The day was a personal landmark. The unassuming legisla- tor who put his blue-collar determination into every action, who stood by his handshake, who wanted to make a difference, now served as an adviser to the state’s highest elected offi cial.

“I can’t explain how I got from there to here. How does that happen?” Benge

said. “I’ll just say it’s God’s will. I try to do my best wherever He puts me.” Benge chuckled when asked about his offi ce’s somewhat obscure profi le. “I’m not surprised that people don’t know about the offi ce,” he said. “The public may not understand all the daily chores but the offi ce plays an impor- tant role in governing.”

As Benge explained, the secretary of state’s offi ce is the great fi ling cabinet for the state of Oklahoma, administering all business fi lings, everything from overseeing LLCs to attesting the governor’s signatures on all legislative actions, compacts and proclamations. This formally chronicles the state’s legal activi- ties and assists in building relationships with the business community. His offi ce also hosts and works with foreign dignitaries, a duty he hopes to expand. In a little over a year on the job, Benge has already had more than a dozen interactions with representatives from Azerbaijan, the Philippines and South Korea.

Independent of his job title, his responsibilities and their international

reach, when asked to describe himself in three words he immediately returned home. Without hesitation Benge said: “A proud Oklahoman.” Sounds like something a statesman would say.

“I can’t explain how I got from there to here. How does that happen? I’ll just say it’s God’s will. I try

to do my best wherever He puts me.” - Chris Benge, Secretary of State

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