Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb’s resume includes a mix of private-sector experience and government service.
A conservative Republican, Lamb was elected lieutenant governor in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014. And now, he is hoping to take his public-service career to the next level.
Lamb is one of nine candidates competing for the governor’s office in the upcoming Republican primary election. Whoever wins the June 26 primary vote will move on to the general election in November, where they will face the winners of the Democratic and Libertarian primaries.
Oklahoma freshman left-handed pitcher Levi Prater was selected as a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, the organization announced WednesdayThe Ada News: What was your background before you became the lieutenant governor?Lamb was in town Thursday for a fundraiser hosted by Ada resident Roger Gaddis. Gaddis and his wife, Leigh, are the Pontotoc County co-chairs of Lamb’s campaign.
The Ada News interviewed Lamb on Thursday afternoon about his background and his “Renew Oklahoma” plan. Here are questions and answers from that interview, edited for clarity and length.
The Ada News: What was your background before you became the lieutenant governor?
Todd Lamb: I was born and raised in Enid, and I’ve done a lot of different things in my career. Private-sector experience as a petroleum landman, and I also worked in the wireless telecom industry as a businessman.
I’ve got a background in law enforcement. I’m a former special agent with the United States Secret Service. While I was in the Secret Service, I did presidential protection, counter-terrorism investigations, assigned portions of the 9/11 investigation and made a lot of arrests in counterfeit currency and white-collar crime.
I also have a background of six years in the Oklahoma State Senate.
My six years in the state Senate was a very unique time. I’m a Republican and my first two years, we were still in the minority. The second two years in my state Senate experience, we were in a tie — there were 24 Republicans, 24 Democrats. And my last two years in the state Senate, I became the first Republican majority floor leader in state history.
The Ada News: What made you decide to run for governor this year?
Lamb: I’m really frustrated about the condition of our state. And it’s one thing to be frustrated, but it’s something else to look through that frustration through the lens of a former Secret Service agent.
When I was in the U.S. Secret Service, I was required to have detailed planning with every assignment I had. They never just slid the gun across the table in my direction, hoping that I would catch the gun, and said, “Hey, the president’s going to Slovenia. Why don’t you head on over and do what you can?”
Five and a half months of a very rigorous academy. Every assignment I had, detailed planning but also back-up planning.
I had to explain that a little bit to say the lens I look through — the frustration I have in Oklahoma — is that we have no plan. There’s been no plan in Oklahoma.
I go to 77 counties every year — not just campaign swing, but 77 counties every year. And as I criss-cross Oklahoma and talk to our citizens — our schoolteachers, our farmers, our ranchers, our businessmen and women — they say, “There’s no plan.” And I agree.
So I’m running to offer a detailed action plan for Oklahoma. And you’ll see in this literature in front of you, it says, ‘Renew Oklahoma.” It’s not just a statement of rhetoric or platitude, but “Renew” — it’s a vertical “Renew,” “R-E-N-E-W.” That’s the five-point framework for my detailed action plan.
Reform and restructure state government — again, not a generalization, Specifically, restructuring the state budget process. I’ve got a plan to get to zero-based budgeting.
“E” in “Renew” stands for education. … I support education funding and a teacher pay raise, but not with tax increases. And we have to have more money spent inside the classroom, where our students are and where our teachers are.
That begins by requiring a minimum of 65 percent of the appropriated dollars to go inside the classroom. Right now, based on one report that we’ve seen, less than 46 percent of the appropriate dollars go inside the classroom. That’s indefensible, so we have to have more money in the classroom.
The “N” in “Renew” stands for neighborhoods. We have a lot of common challenges in Oklahoma, shared challenges, but also unique and parochial challenges. There’s rural health care issues, criminal justice issues.
The pothole in Ada is not the same pothole in Enid, for example, Infrastructure’s a shared common challenge, but there are different issues even with infrastructure.
Economic growth is the second “E” In “Renew.” Economic growth really focuses on economic diversification.
We’ve heard for years either candidates for governor or candidates for any other office talk about diversifying our economy, and then it’s crickets after that because they never made a detailed action plan to start that diversification process.
I’ve got a plan to do that, and it begins with this: I’m going to appoint the first secretary for international trade that Oklahoma’s ever had.
Why focus on appointing a secretary of international trade? Oklahoma’s got a math problem, meaning a population problem. Just under 4 million people. We don’t have enough people to really churn a robust economy. We’re a relatively small state.
The greatest strength we have in Oklahoma is our people. Within that, as reflected or manifested in small business. Over 97 percent of all employers in Oklahoma are small-business employers. That’s a real strength we have.
Oklahoma exports to a degree, but not to the degree we should. So as governor, I will lead the charge with my secretary of international trade to expand our exports.
All different kinds of commodities we’re manufacturing and fabricating, but we do not export enough to countries like Taiwan, as an example. …
And then the “W” just stands for work. State government doesn’t work. It doesn’t serve its people well. If Oklahoma was a business and we called it Oklahoma Inc., the board of directors would want to fire somebody and the shareholders would be really upset about the product they’re receiving, considering the investment they’re making.
As governor, I’ll make Oklahoma work and serve its people again.
The Ada News: One of the things you talked about under reforming government was changing the structure of the legislative session. Could you elaborate on that?
Lamb: It starts with restructuring the budget process. To do that, we need to restructure the session.
The session in Oklahoma is a four-month session, from the first Monday in February to the last Friday in May. Constitutionally, that’s when it must sine die and conclude. …
This year alone, there were over 1,900 bills filed. Some of them were carry-overs from the previous legislative session, but 1,900 bills — the majority of which had nothing to do with the budget. Oklahoma’s in the fiscal mess that we’re in, and the majority of the legislation had nothing to do with the budget.
It’s a four-month time of helter-skelter where anything goes — policy, budget, fiscal, non-fiscal. Anything goes for four months, even with rolling three-week deadlines.
So the session should look like this: The first month, policy only, no budget.
And here’s why we’ll break it down to a month: The governor of Oklahoma is required to give a State of the State address. It’s not until one month later that the Board of Equalization makes its final certification of how much money the Legislature has to appropriate.
So the first month of every session is like a football scrimmage. There’s a lot of frenetic activity, but the scoreboard’s not lit up because nothing matters.
So one month, let’s get all policy out of the way. You knock out a lot of ancillary legislation that the Legislature should address …
Then in the last three months, no policy. Budget only. Because the Board of Equalization has certified how much money there is to appropriate, go three months drilling down on the budget.
The Ada News: Moving on to the education component, you talked about requiring 65 percent of education dollars to be spent inside the classroom. What steps would you favor to make that happen?
Lamb: You can do it a couple of different ways. One is, you can do it legislatively. Pass a bill that empowers the school boards — we should make our local school boards more important and give them more autonomy than they already have.
We elect these school board members for a reason. Let’s empower them to make even more decisions. Because I don’t want to see more mandates from the state Capitol to our schools.
Because if the majority of legislators don’t know that the Ada mascot is the cougar — if they don’t even know the basic mascot — why do I want them to start passing mandates? Let the school board do that.
The 65 percent, you can pass legislation that says, “School board’s required (to spend) 65 percent inside the classroom.” Or once the appropriated number is determined in this zero-based budget session that I’m proposing — once that figure’s determined, then you make two appropriations. One toward classroom expenditures, and one toward non-classroom expenditures.
You define what’s classroom. You start with teacher salaries, because they’re in the classroom. New textbook allowance, software, TV technologies. Those are some of the in-classroom expenditures you start with to prioritize some of that money.