Stitt taps businessman with no college degree for higher education board | Government and politics
Governor Kevin Stitt’s latest nominee for the board that oversees the state’s higher education system is a successful businessman but doesn’t have a college degree.
Dustin Hilliary, managing partner of Lawton’s Hilliary Communications, said in an email that he attended Cameron University “for nearly three years until the growth of the family business thrust me into the business. family faster than expected”.
Since then, Hilliary said, “I’ve been involved in growing our footprint, including growing the business in Texas and Iowa, and creating over a hundred jobs across the country. ‘Rural Oklahoma.’
Hilliary said the experience gives her a taste of higher education.
“We are in a new era for higher education where we need to ensure that it is attractive and accessible to a wide range of people, from those completing high school to those completing a military deployment overseas, to adults who need to retool and retrain,” he said. .
“I am confident that my life experiences will bring perspective to a very impressive Board of Trustees. (I) will work hard to ensure Oklahoma provides a quality public education system that serves all people, regardless of their situations or life circumstances.
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Stitt named Hilliary on Friday to replace Tulsan Jay Helm, whose term expires next month. For decades, the job was filled by someone from Tulsa, but a spokesperson for Stitt said that wasn’t a factor in his decision.
“The governor is always on the lookout for the best candidates,” Charlie Hannema said.
Tulsa is still represented on the board by businessman Jody Parker.
Giving someone without a college degree oversight of state colleges and universities may raise a few eyebrows, but fits Stitt’s history of appointing people to boards and agencies based primarily on their business experience.
“I believe our higher education system exists to train and prepare Oklahoma’s workforce. Dustin Hilliary’s extensive business experience, particularly in rural communities, will help ensure that our colleges and universities produce graduates with the skills Oklahoma businesses need,” Stitt said in a press release.
Hannema underscored that comment when asked about Stitt’s decision to invite criticism by appointing someone without a college degree to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education board.
The press release also includes an endorsement from Cameron University President John McArthur, who said Hilliary “and his corporate family have been great partners” for CU and higher education.
Hilliary Communications provides telephone and broadband services to 19,000 customers in 22 counties in southwestern Oklahoma and northwestern Texas. It also publishes two newspapers, the Comanche County Chronicle in Elgin and the Lawton-based Southwest Ledger, which lists Dustin Hilliary as co-editor.
According to the governor’s press release, Hilliary Communications has received more than $110 million in federal broadband loans and grants from the United States Department of Agriculture and the Federal Communications Commission.
Dustin Hilliary’s professional associations include NTCA – Rural Broadband Association, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Oklahoma Telephone Association, Elgin Schools Education Foundation, Comanche County Memorial Hospital Foundation, and Oklahoma State Chamber .
On the political side, data from the Oklahoma State Ethics Commission indicates that the extended Hilliary family and Hilliary Communications paid at least $325,000 to candidates – most but not all Republicans – for the state office and state political action committees since 2015.
That total includes $13,100 for Stitt’s 2022 re-election campaign.
The Federal Election Commission lists $142,300 in contributions from Dustin Hilliary since 2008. U.S. Senator James Lankford and U.S. Representatives Tom Cole, Stephanie Bice and Markwayne Mullin have each received more than $20,000 from Hilliary.
His appointment is subject to the approval of the State Senate.
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