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Former Edmond Mayor Patrice Douglas still remembers when she sat her son down on the bed and told him that Mommy had a new job.
For some reason, the words “corporation commissioner” didn’t quite resonate with the 13-year-old.
“I don’t even know what that is, Mom,” she remembers son Phillip saying. “I at least know what a mayor does.”
Now just a couple of months into her new job, Douglas admits she’s still grasping the nuances of one of the most powerful public positions in Oklahoma.
“I actually said a long time ago, ‘When I grow up, I want to be on the Corporation Commission,’” Douglas says. “I know that’s not the dream of every Oklahoma girl, but I realized a long time ago, if you want to make a difference in Oklahoma, this is the place to do it.”
On Sept. 8, Gov. Mary Fallin announced the appointment of Douglas to the Corporation Commission. She replaced Jeff Cloud, who resigned to work in the private sector.
Douglas still struggles trying to describe her new job to friends and family.
“I tell them we affect every single person in Oklahoma,” she says. “That always makes them look at me skeptically.”
If you pay an electric bill, drive on Oklahoma’s roads or see a well site in the Sooner State, then you’ve seen some of the Corporation Commission’s handiwork.
Every oil or gas well in Oklahoma requires the commission’s stamp of approval, as does every gas pump and weigh station.
Utility companies have to ask the Corporation Commission first before they charge a rate.
The commission meets daily with a new agenda.
“I hope I’m learning for the next 15 years,” Douglas says. “It’s amazing the things that come in front of my desk just in one day.”
Peeking at her calendar for the following day, Douglas saw 80 different orders of business.
“You just have to hit the ground running,” she says.
One of her first orders of business will be setting up a re-election campaign. As a mid-term appointee, Douglas must run for re-election in 2012 and again in 2014.
She is no stranger to governor appointments. Three governors have tapped Douglas’ expertise for six different statewide boards and task forces.
Before becoming Edmond’s mayor in April 2009, she served two terms at the Edmond Economic Development Authority.
She was instrumental in helping the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s office to move to Edmond, and also in helping the city build Oklahoma’s largest competition swimming pool complex, which will break ground in early 2012.
The longtime Edmond resident attended Oklahoma Christian for her undergraduate degree, and went on to the University of Oklahoma for her law degree.
She practiced law full time for 13 years until she joined the family business.
Working as vice president and general counsel for her father’s company, ACP Sheet Metal, she earned her degree in Small Business 101.
Eventually she became the president of SpiritBank and executive vice president of First Fidelity Bank.
Last May, she was appointed to the Oklahoma Bankers Association Board of Directors.
In February 2011, Douglas received the Kate Barnard Award for Outstanding Public Service in Oklahoma.
She says she wants to continue providing outstanding public service for the Oklahoma regulatory agency.
“I believe regulation has a role to play, but I also think we need to remember as regulators we have to use common sense,” Douglas says. “We’ve seen industries where regulation has absolutely strangled the industry and we can’t do that.”
Photo by Mark Hancock