At the request of Gov. Kevin Stitt, the Oklahoma Broadband Governing Board extended a job offer to former Republican state Rep. Mike Sanders to be the Oklahoma Broadband Office’s first executive director.
During executive session at their March 3 meeting, the board originally interviewed five candidates to be the agency’s executive director.
Board Chairman Mike Fina said their initial preferred candidate was from out of state and they had concerns about the person’s lack of familiarity with Oklahoma.
Following the March 3 meeting, Stitt asked the council to consider Sanders instead, Board Member Mike Erhart told The Frontier.
Sanders was not one of the candidates originally interviewed for the position so board members put his interview on the March 22 meeting agenda. After interviewing him for over an hour the board voted to extend him an offer.
Following the meeting, Fina said Stitt was involved in the process and said the governor asked the board to consider multiple candidates and did not confirm or deny that he asked the board to consider Sanders.
“We’re all appointed at the pleasure of somebody, and (Stitt) had put names in throughout the whole thing,” Fina said. “So it’s really not fair to say that he put one name in particular, he gave me several names throughout the process that he would be happy with as director of the Broadband Office.”
Sanders declined to comment until the offer was public and directed questions to Fina.
Sanders’ salary will have to be approved by the board at their next meeting as he asked for slightly more than what had previously been approved, Fina said.
When asked if he instructed the board to consider Sanders, Stitt gave a statement commending Sanders’ accomplishments and boasted his credentials to do the job.
“Mike’s extensive work at the state House and his time serving in the George W. Bush administration give him the unique ability to understand this process and how to best navigate the complicated DC bureaucracy to make sure these federal dollars are distributed fairly and align with our vision to deliver high-speed internet access to 95% of the state by 2028,” Stitt said in a statement.
Sanders served in the Legislature from 2008-2020 and worked in President George W. Bush’s White House as Director of Interns.
In 2021 he started Sanders Strategy and Consulting.
The broadband office is funded almost exclusively on federal funds and grants and is tasked with expanding broadband access to 95% of the state by June 30, 2028.
A spokesperson for the agency said the office is sitting on $382 million from the American Rescue Plan Act state and local recovery fund money and $167 million from the capital project fund in ARPA. They are expected to invest more than $1 billion for broadband infrastructure over five years.
The office is governed by a board that is comprised of nine members: three appointed by the Governor, two by the Senate Pro Tempore, two by the Speaker of the House, the Lieutenant Governor and the state Treasurer.