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Fallin Picks Pruitt's Chief Of Staff As New Oklahoma Labor Commissioner

Oklahoma's new labor commissioner Melissa Houston

Gov. Mary Fallin plans to appoint Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s chief of staff as the next labor commissioner.

Melissa McLawhorn Houston will serve out the remainder of Mark Costello’s term, which would’ve ended in January 2019. Costello was murderedAugust 23 at an Oklahoma City fast food restaurant. His son Christian, who’s been described as mentally ill, has been charged with first degree murder in the stabbing death.

Houston has served as a key aid to Pruitt since 2011. She’s also been the chief of staff for the state Office of Homeland Security, and worked within the criminal justice system as the deputy director of the Oklahoma Sheriffs Association, and as a lawyer with the Oklahoma Truth in Sentencing Policy Advisory Commission.

"Melissa knows how to run a state agency and how to ensure the public is getting the most out of the dollars it invests," Fallin said in a statement. "I know she is excited to build on Mark Costello's legacy of delivering a more efficient and effective state agency. Her expertise and experience in budget-management will be particularly important to the Labor Department during what is sure to be a challenging fiscal year for the state."

Houston will take over the post before the end of November, and says she has no plans to seek the labor commissioner post in the 2018 elections.

Costello’s widow Cathy Costello wanted the post, and Fallin says she took the request seriously. The governor said she hopes Cathy Costello continues to advocate for mental health issues.

Fred Morgan, the head of the State Chamber of Oklahoma, said in a statement Houston is a dedicated public servant, and he looks forward to working with her on the state's business issues.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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