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State health commissioner steps down
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State health commissioner steps down

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Dr. Lance Frye resigned Friday as state health commissioner.

No reason was given in a press release announcing his departure.

But in his resignation letter to Gov. Kevin Stitt, Frye said the agency is transitioning from pandemic response to endemic surveillance.

“As Oklahoma and OSDH move into this next phase, I believe it is time for me to move forward as well,” Frye wrote in the letter that was supplied by Stitt’s office at the request of the Tulsa World.

The announcement came a day after Stitt and legislative leaders were critical of an Oklahoma State Department of Health decision to allow a nonbinary designation on birth certificates to resolve a lawsuit.

Nonbinary individuals do not identify as specifically male or female.

Frye began at the agency in May 2020 at the height of the state’s COVID-19 pandemic response.

“It has been an honor to serve Oklahoma and advance public health for all Oklahomans,” Frye said in the press release. “I admire the dedication, resilience and tenacity of the OSDH team. They have worked tirelessly over the last two years to ensure Oklahomans had access to not only COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and critical information, but other life-saving services.”

Stitt said he was grateful to Frye for his service, adding that he provided steady leadership. Frye has positioned the agency well to continue to manage COVID-19 effectively, the governor said.

Deputy Commissioner Keith Reed was tapped as interim commissioner while a search is conducted for a replacement.

At least two other high-profile Oklahoma State Department of Health employees also recently left the agency.

Jennifer Lepard has resigned as chief operating officer. She has accepted a job as chief of health, wellness and community partnerships with the Oklahoma State Department of Education, according to the agency.

The post is a new position. She will be paid $120,000 under a federal grant, according to an agency spokesman. She will start in November.

Lepard could not immediately be reached for comment.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has announced she changed parties to Democrat from Republican and will run against Stitt.

Three weeks ago, Kathie A. Darr was hired to work for House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka.

Darr is the former Oklahoma State Department of Health legislative liaison. Her services with the agency ended Thursday, according to a filing with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.

She began her job with the speaker’s office on Monday, said John Estus, a McCall spokesman.

Estus said Darr is a “great addition to the team” and “her hiring was unrelated to any issues going on at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.”

Featured video:

Oct. 14, 2021 video. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt says he does not support requiring the COVID-19 vaccine.

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