By Sean Murphy
OKLAHOMA CITY — Secretary of State Glenn Coffee, a former state senator who has served as Gov. Mary Fallin's chief budget negotiator since 2010, announced Friday he's stepping down to pursue an opportunity in the private sector.
The first-ever Republican leader of the Oklahoma Senate, Coffee was appointed secretary of state after term limits forced him from his state Senate seat.
"While I am sad to leave my post in the Fallin administration, I could not be happier with the course that Governor Fallin has charted for the state of Oklahoma," Coffee said in a statement. "For the last two years I have had the great privilege of helping the governor craft policies that will continue Oklahoma's forward momentum and help to spur job creation for decades to come."
Coffee, who earns about $90,000 annually as secretary of state, cited the needs of his family as part of the reason he decided to pursue a private-sector job.
"I've got four kids, and the pressures of taking care of family are real, so I'm going to go and try to make a living," Coffee told The Associated Press.
Coffee said that while he already has a private-sector job lined up, he was not prepared to discuss it publicly until next month.
"I'm not talking about what I'm going to do yet. I'm still trying to put that all together," Coffee said.
Fallin described Coffee as a fixture in Oklahoma politics for more than a decade and praised him for "setting the stage for unified conservative government."
"As secretary of state, Glenn continued his good work by helping to craft fiscally conservative budgets, landmark lawsuit reform and workers' compensation legislation," Fallin said in a statement. "His experience and wealth of knowledge will be sorely missed."
Besides serving as Fallin's chief negotiator with lawmakers on budget and policy issues, Coffee has been heavily involved in mediation talks with two of the state's largest Native American tribes — the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations — in a lawsuit over water rights.
The governor's office said they plan to retain Coffee, who is an attorney, as an "outside consultant" on water issues, although the details of that position have not been worked out.
Coffee is expected to step down no later than Jan. 31, 2013, and a Fallin spokesman says they have no timeline for announcing a replacement. Fallin's Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger will assume Coffee's budget-negotiation duties.
The Secretary of State's office receives all official filings from the governor and the Legislature, as well as official business filings, agency rules and regulations, applications for notaries public and bonds of public officials. The office also serves as the key contact for foreign government officials.