What an incredible place Oklahoma is to call home. No other state has such a wide range of experiences, landscapes and communities to explore. My lifelong love of Oklahoma was formed by fond memories on my grandparents’ farm, nurtured during family vacations in our beautiful state parks, and continues through my service to this great state.
I thought I had the absolute best job in the state. As executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation, not only do I get to proclaim the beauty of Oklahoma on a daily basis, but I get to see the dynamic economic driver the industry is for our state. As the state’s third largest industry with an annual impact of $11.8 billion, the opportunities for economic growth and development are endless.
But when Governor Kevin Stitt named me secretary of tourism, wildlife and heritage, I found a new layer to my passion for Oklahoma. I understand that tourism is only one part of a collective ecosystem of our state’s beautiful landscapes, dynamic communities, vast wildlife, and world-class cultural and natural assets. I want to share all that Oklahoma has to offer with our people and visitors.
My vision for Oklahoma’s tourism, wildlife and arts communities is one of innovation and excellence. Whether it’s exploring the rich cultural heritage of our communities, experiencing the thrill of our outdoor adventures, or indulging in our local cuisine, there truly is something for everyone in Oklahoma.
Beyond attracting visitors, I believe tourism has the power to strengthen communities, attract new Oklahomans, create jobs and spur economic growth across the state. By investing in strategic initiatives and partnerships, we can unlock the full potential of Oklahoma’s tourism, wildlife, arts and cultural communities and position our state as a top-notch place to live, work and play. the national and international scene.
For more than a decade, I have had the privilege of working in our state government alongside talented and passionate people who are dedicated to improving Oklahoma for current and future generations. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve our state and have spent a lot of time recently reflecting on my journey to this point.
Since my first day as an entry-level budget analyst in the Office of State Finance, I have been driven by a desire to create positive change and drive innovation in government. Now, over the course of my career, I have had the honor of serving in various key roles and partnering with local and state leaders to enact lasting and positive change in Oklahoma.
I am more determined than ever to exploit the full potential of what we have to offer.
As I begin this new chapter, I am filled with optimism and determination. Together, with the support of our dedicated team at the Department of Tourism and Recreation, the dedication of our state leaders in the many state agencies that I represent as secretary, and the unwavering spirit of the people of Oklahoma, I am confident that we can accomplish great things and usher in an era of prosperity for our state.
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Together, we can showcase to the world all that makes Oklahoma truly special and make our tourism, wildlife and arts communities shine brighter than ever before. It’s time to rediscover our state – I hope to see you around Oklahoma this year.
Shelley Zumwalt is the executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation and interim secretary of tourism, wildlife and heritage.