OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department (OTRD) is reflecting on the past year of progress, transparent governance, and continued investment in making Oklahoma a world-class travel destination under the leadership of Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt.
“It’s been an incredible journey serving as the Executive Director of OTRD for the past year,” said Shelley Zumwalt, Executive Director of OTRD. “The job is more rewarding than I ever could have imagined, and it’s allowed me to fall in love with Oklahoma all over again. I’m so appreciative of our dedicated team across the state. Together, we have achieved remarkable milestones in the past 12 months, and I can’t wait to see where we take this agency in the years ahead.”
Under Director Zumwalt’s leadership, OTRD has made significant strides to improve the state’s tourism industry. These changes have spurred economic growth in rural communities, improved visitor experiences at state parks, helped protect our natural resources and ensured the agency is responsibly stewarding taxpayer dollars.
“Shelley’s vision and leadership have propelled our agency to new heights,” said Sterling Zearley, director of state parks at OTRD. “Her innovative ideas and tireless efforts to improve our state parks will have a lasting impact on the experiences of visitors for years to come. I’m proud to work alongside her, and our entire team at OTRD, to help make Oklahoma a tourist destination for visitors around the world.”
More information on key initiatives from Director Zumwalt’s first year at OTRD is below:
Successful Reopening of State Park Restaurants
Under Director Zumwalt’s leadership, all six state park restaurants were successfully reopened by Memorial Day weekend following a comprehensive and transparent Request for Proposal (RFP) process for a new vendor. The Lookout Kitchen has created 300 new jobs and generated over $2.5 million in sales, benefitting many rural communities across the state.
Collaboration with the Legislature to Properly Fund State Parks
OTRD partnered with the Oklahoma legislature to conduct two interim studies to assess the economic impact of state parks and identify funding sources to address the $350 million in deferred maintenance. Director Zumwalt and the OTRD team participated in the studies to provide key insights and historical data on the parks and inform potential legislation to pave the way for critical maintenance projects. The team also hosted several state legislators at parks in their districts to provide additional context and answer questions about ongoing funding needs.
Vehicle fleet modernization
OTRD conducted a review of its fleet and was able to identify dozens of vehicles that could be submitted for surplus due to their age, lack of use or high cost of repairs. In total, OTRD identified 51 underutilized vehicles, saving taxpayers an estimated $450,000 a year.
Strategic Capital Projects Planning
A master list of nearly 200 capital projects and improvements at state parks was created to outline the critical maintenance needs that are required to maintain the parks for future generations. The agency is currently finalizing a strategic plan for prioritization and a timeline for completing these outstanding needs, ensuring the enhancement and preservation of Oklahoma’s natural resources.
Standardization and Renegotiation of Agency Contracts
Over the past year, Director Zumwalt led efforts to standardize and renegotiate over 2,000 agency contracts. This review included updating short-term concessionaire contracts, ensuring the agency receives an appropriate percentage of sales in state parks. Additionally, multimillion-dollar contracts with parking pass vendors and payment processing vendors were renegotiated, securing more favorable terms for the agency. These efforts help ensure OTRD is stewarding taxpayer dollars transparently, responsibly and efficiently.
Zero-Based Budgeting Strategy
Director Zumwalt oversaw the completion of a zero-based budgeting process for the entire $88 million agency budget for FY24. This meticulous review involved examining every expenditure and ensuring optimal allocation of resources to effectively support the agency’s mission.