Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, announced Friday the members of his Leadership staff and members of the senior Senate staff for the First Session of the 54th Oklahoma Legislature.
Cheryl Boothe will continue to serve as Executive Assistant to the President Pro Tempore. “Cheryl has been a trusted aide for many years,” said Bingman. “I am thankful for her enthusiasm, talent, and commitment to Oklahoma. She will be essential to our success in the coming legislative session.” Boothe is a graduate of Oklahoma State University. Previously, she worked in the private sector before serving as an aide in both the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Senate.
Amy McCord will return to the Leadership staff, managing the front desk as Administrative Assistant. Amy is a graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma and majored in Biology and Forensics. “Amy is a skilled and dedicated individual with a sincere desire to serve her fellow Oklahomans,” said Bingman. In addition to her service in the Pro Tem’s office, Amy works with her sister and mother as a wedding planner in Oklahoma City.
John Willbanks will remain part of the Leadership staff as Appointments Secretary for Boards and Commissions. “John is one of the most dedicated and earnest public servants I know,” said Bingman. “His broad experience, even temperament, and exceptional judgment makes him the perfect fit to manage the civic appointments process.” Willbanks is a graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma and holds a Public Relations Certificate from Rice University. Before joining the Leadership staff, Willbanks worked with former Appropriations Chairman Sen. Mike Johnson.
Trait Thompson returns to the Leadership staff and will serve as Senior Policy Advisor to the President Pro Tempore in the 54th Legislature. “Trait has proven himself as a bright policy mind with a thorough knowledge of the legislative process. His passion for promoting a pro-jobs, pro-growth environment in Oklahoma is admirable,” Bingman said. Thompson holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Oral Roberts University with a graduate degree from the George H.W. Bush School of Government at Texas A&M University. Before joining the Leadership office, Thompson worked on the campaign staff of Governor Mary Fallin. In addition to his public service, Thompson serves as a member of the Capitol Preservation Commission and teaches in the Political Science Department at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City. Thompson is also an ordained minister. He resides in the Oklahoma City area.
Jonathan Nichols, a former member of the Oklahoma State Senate, joins the Leadership staff as General Counsel to the President Pro Tempore for the 54th Legislature. “Senator Nichols is a dedicated public servant and skilled legal advisor,” said Bingman. “I am excited to have Jonathan’s counsel and unique skill-set as we tackle the challenges facing Oklahoma.” Nichols graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Law and spent several years as an award-winning Assistant District Attorney before being elected to the Oklahoma state Senate. During his time in the Legislature, Senator Nichols served as Republican Caucus Chairman, Chairman of the Rules Committee, and worked intently on public safety initiatives.
Nathan Atkins will again serve as Leadership Assistant to the President Pro Tempore and Communications Director. Atkins has an extensive background in government and conservative politics. “Nathan’s dedication to smaller, simpler, and smarter government serves the Senate Republican caucus well,” said Bingman. A native of Edmond, Atkins attended Edmond Santa Fe High School and the University of Southern California. Previously, Atkins managed the 2010 re-election campaign of Congressman Tom Cole. He was part of the team that worked to elect Congressman James Lankford in 2010, and has worked for U.S. Senator James Inhofe. Additionally, he is active in civic causes in the Oklahoma City community, where he currently resides.
In addition to Leadership staff, Pro Tem Bingman announced senior Senate staff positions.
Randy Dowell will continue serving as the Senate Chief of Staff and Fiscal Director. Dowell, a graduate of Southwestern Oklahoma State University, joined the Oklahoma state Senate staff as a Fiscal Analyst in 1999.
Bingman also announced he has selected Paul Ziriax, the Secretary of the Senate and the State Election Board Secretary, for a third two-year term. The Secretary of the Senate will be formally elected by state Senators in January. By law, the Secretary of the Senate also serves as State Election Board Secretary. The Secretary of the Senate directs the Senate's floor staff, is the custodian of official Senate records, and provides parliamentary assistance to the Senate's presiding officer. The State Election Board Secretary is the chief administrative officer of the State Election Board agency and is the state's chief election official.
Ziriax has served as Secretary of the Senate and State Election Board Secretary since 2009. Ziriax previously served for six years on the Senate staff as a media and policy advisor to the Co-President Pro Tempore and two Senate Minority Leaders, and was chief of staff and press secretary to former U.S. Congressman Wes Watkins.