Benge named Fallin’s chief of staff

Governor Mary Fallin announced a series of changes to her Cabinet and senior staff.

The changes are:

  • Secretary of State and Native American Affairs Chris Benge, a former House speaker, will become the governor’s chief of staff. He will retain his duties as secretary of Native American Affairs.
  • First Assistant Attorney General Mike Hunter, a former legislator who served as secretary of state for former Governor Frank Keating, will become secretary of state and special counsel to the governor.
  • Chief of Staff Denise Northrup will become chief operations officer at the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, an agency formed in Fallin’s first term by consolidating several shared government services to generate efficiencies.
  • Deputy General Counsel Jennifer Chance, a former Oklahoma County assistant district attorney, will become general counsel.

All changes will be effective by Nov. 1.

Benge was appointed as Oklahoma’s 33rd secretary of state by Governor Mary Fallin on Nov. 8, 2013. In his role as secretary of state, Benge serves on the governor’s Cabinet and is responsible for 20 executive entities.

Benge was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1998 and left office in November 2010 due to legislative term limits. He served six years in House leadership positions, including three years as chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, which is responsible for negotiating and writing the state budget.

Benge steered the effort in the Legislature to help attract an NBA franchise to the state, which led to the beginning of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He spent his last three years in the Legislature as speaker of the House.

After his legislative service, Benge worked in Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett’s administration as director of intergovernmental and enterprise development. Benge then was the senior vice president of government affairs with the Tulsa Regional Chamber.

In February of 2015, Fallin appointed Benge to fill the position of Native American liaison, a position in which he works directly with the tribal nations of the state.

A lifetime Tulsa area resident, Benge will oversee all office staff and operations while serving as a top adviser to the governor. In addition, Benge will retain his role as the governor’s top tribal nation liaison by filling the Cabinet position of secretary of Native American affairs.

“Chris Benge is a widely-respected consensus builder who has been in the trenches and knows how to achieve success in the Legislature and across the state. His temperament, experience and love for Oklahoma and public service make him an excellent fit for this role,” Fallin said.

Hunter was named Oklahoma’s first assistant attorney general in June 2015.  He is the chief legal advisor to Attorney General Scott Pruitt and oversees a staff of over 200 lawyers, law enforcement agents and support staff.

Hunter served as Oklahoma’s secretary of state under Keating. Hunter was chief of staff to then-U.S. Rep. J. C. Watts Jr., of Oklahoma, from 1995 to 1999.

Northrup has served as Governor Mary Fallin’s chief of staff since she took office in 2011. Northrup also worked on Fallin’s staff as lieutenant governor and was Fallin’s district office director when she served in Congress.

In addition to her staff roles, Northrup is a veteran campaign manager, having managed Fallin’s five consecutive winning campaigns for lieutenant governor, Congress and governor, plus other successful campaigns.

Chance has served as Governor Mary Fallin’s deputy general counsel since 2013. Prior to that, Chance was an assistant district attorney in Oklahoma County, where she served as felony team leader, and Pottawatomie and Lincoln counties.