Norman Senator extends turnpike fight against ODOT director’s Senate nomination


The governor’s nomination of Tim Gatz to continue as the executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation didn’t get a unanimous support Tuesday in an Oklahoma Senate Committee.

Norman Sen. Mary Boren was the lone vote against the nomination as the Senate Aeronautics and Transportation Committee voted 8-1 in support of Gatz.

Boren issued a statement after the vote explaining that in her opinion her Senate District 16 has been in turmoil since 2021 over “a major transportation plan under Mr. Gatz’s leadership that failed to include stakeholder involvement and lacked transparency in the purchase of surrounding land.”

Boren went on to indicate she had hopes during the Committee meeting for a chance to talk about ways for Gatz to restore trust with her constituents who are opposed to the ODOT turnpike plan that would take their land. But the Democratic Senator said the confirmation process prevented a public and candid conversation.

“Upon a vote by the full Senate, Mr. Gatz will likely be confirmed to be the chief executive officer of an agency that oversees about $1.6 billion in taxpayer funds. I am convinced that it is entirely appropriate to address the legitimate concerns that have developed since 2021 before the Senate confirms him to continue leading ODOT,” added Sen. Boren.

She further said in a business setting, she would have been able to have a conversation but blamed a “supermajority, politically divisive environment” for not allowing it.

“Despite this predictable and disappointing outcome, I am resolved to continue demanding that government is accountable to ordinary people and do my best to work in a bipartisan way to proactively include stakeholders, prevent wasteful spending, and advance sound projects,” said the Senator.

Until February, Gatz was also Transportation Secretary and director of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. A ruling by Attorney General Gentner Drummond led to his resignation from both. The ruling had been requested by Sen. Boren.

Gatz served as executive director of the Turnpike Authority since his appointment in 2016. He was named secretary of transportaton and director of the ODOT in 2019.

The Attorney General’s ruling disappointed Gov. Stitt.

“Tim Gatz has dedicated his career to serving the state of Oklahoma for 34 years,” said the Governor. “He is highly sought after by businesses and governments all over the country but has chosen to stay here and serve his state. I am disappointed he is the victim of pointless politics.”