(OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma / April 2, 2019) — The Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department announced today Jerry Winchester has been appointed as the new executive director of the agency, a position that will require Senate confirmation.
Winchester comes to the Tourism Department after 35 years of executive leadership in the private sector across various Oklahoma-based companies, most recently as president and chief executive officer of Seventy Seven Energy. Before that, he served as CEO of Chesapeake Oilfield Services, a division of Chesapeake Energy Corporation that would eventually be spun off into Seventy Seven Energy. Winchester also spent 13 years as CEO of Houston-based Boots & Coots International Well Control. He started his career with Halliburton Energy Services, serving in a variety of positions during his 16 years with the company.
“Governor Kevin Stitt and I are thrilled to be bringing in an executive with a track record like Jerry’s for this role,” said Oklahoma Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell, who is also Oklahoma’s Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Branding. “Tourism is a cornerstone of the Oklahoma economy, and we feel that Jerry’s executive management experience and vision will bring a new dimension to the Department’s work.”
Tourism is Oklahoma’s third-largest industry, supporting more than 100,000 jobs in the state. In 2017, it contributed $8.9 billion to the state’s economy in direct visitor spending, and $656 million in state and local taxes.
“Oklahoma’s tourism industry is a significant driver of economic growth in our state,” Winchester said. “As the next agency director, my mission will be to increase Oklahoma’s visibility across the nation and demonstrate why our state should be a Top Ten destination choice for entertainment, outdoor adventure, business conferences and more.”
A native Oklahoman, Winchester grew up in Dickson, a small town east of Ardmore. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Oklahoma State University and played defensive tackle for the OSU football team during his time at the university.
Winchester previously served on the State of Oklahoma’s Long Range Capital Planning Commission and is a trustee and vice chairman for the Oklahoma State University Foundation. He also serves on the board of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Regent Bank and the Boy Scouts of America Last Frontier Council.
The Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department includes the Oklahoma State Parks system, the Oklahoma Film + Music Office, Oklahoma Todaymagazine, “Discover Oklahoma” television show, the TravelOK.com website and Oklahoma’s Tourism Information Centers. The Department’s Travel Promotion Division oversees the agency’s marketing and promotional efforts. It administers programs designed to build awareness of the state as a destination and educates on the economic importance of the Oklahoma travel and tourism industry.