Pinnell says tourism-economic development is job 1

Robert Smith

The Republican candidate for Oklahoma lieutenant governor last Thursday told a group at the Osage County courthouse that he sees economic development, particularly tourism development, as the primary job he’ll be doing, if elected Nov. 6.

“I firmly believe the lieutenant governor is the sales and marketing director for the state,” Matt Pinnell said. A former state Republican Party chairman, Pinnell says he is committed to working constructively with the person elected governor Nov. 6, whether that is GOP nominee Kevin Stitt or Democratic nominee Drew Edmondson.

“Oklahoma can be a billion-dollar state,” Pinnell said, referring to tax revenues related to tourism. He said the state already generates in excess of $650 million annually of state and local tax dollars from tourism, and he thinks there is room for growth in revenues based on growth in the tourism business. His audience Thursday included Kelly Bland, who heads up Osage County Tourism; Joni Nash, of the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce; and several members of the Osage County Tourism Board.

Pinnell, 39, is an Oral Roberts University graduate and hails from Green Country. He and his wife, Lisa, have a business together called, and they have four children in the Jenks Public Schools.

“I’m not going to be a stranger. I’m not moving to Oklahoma City,” Pinnell said Thursday, pledging to remain attuned to the needs of northeast Oklahoma.

Celia Lanham, chair of the Osage County Republican Party, introduced Pinnell as someone who is not an ideologue and is able to work with people of differing political leanings.

Pinnell said he doesn’t view the post of lieutenant governor as a either a consolation prize or a stepping stone.

“There is a real job to do,” he said. “I would not be running for Congress if I wasn’t running for this.”

Pinnell faulted the Oklahoma Legislature for having cut funding for the state Tourism Department. He pointed out that tourism returns $7 of revenue for every dollar invested in it.

“They have to understand that we do need to invest in a Tourism Department,” Pinnell said of legislators. He also argued that he will not defend any incentives that don’t actually help the state. “I don’t want incentives that are a net negative to the state.”

Bland told Pinnell she would like to see a brainstorming session scheduled for state and regional tourism officials. Pinnell responded that, if elected, he will hold a tourism summit that will include local input.

Osage County commissioner Kevin Paslay, who said he had attended a Bible study Thursday morning, functioned as the voice of social conservatism during Pinnell’s presentation. Paslay asked a question about a building he had heard Planned Parenthood is building or plans to build, and he closed the session by asking if he could pray for the candidate.

“I pray we take this nation back,” Paslay said, in part.