OkaCon 2023 Speakers
Lt. Governor, Chris Anoatubby
Chris Anoatubby was elected to serve in his first term as Lt. Governor in 2019. He began his service with the Chickasaw Nation in 1997 as a staff pharmacist. Throughout his career, Lt. Governor Anoatubby held positions including chief of pharmacy services, under secretary of tribal and commercial health for the Chickasaw Nation Department of Commerce and deputy secretary for the Chickasaw Nation Department of Health. He played an instrumental role in the implementation of the tribe’s first automated pharmacy refill center that opened in 2007 and the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center that opened in 2010. He continues to utilize his experience in health, business and tribal government, overseeing many different health operations and numerous tribal programs. During the past decade, he has served on many different boards both in his local community, as well as in the OKC metro area. As a tribal leader, he advocates for the health and wellbeing of Chickasaw citizens and other First Americans and is committed to enhancing the overall quality of life of the Chickasaw people. He is married to Becky, and has three children, Brendan, Eryn and Sydney.
The Oka’ Institute’s Executive Director, Duane Smith, traveled to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology in Bondo, Kenya to be awarded his honorary doctorate of science. This is to recognize his contribution to the society towards water management and policy. Duane Smith participated and directed three statewide planning efforts in 1980, 1995 and 2012 Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plans. Between 1978 to 2010 he served in the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and was later appointed the Executive Director in 1997 to 2010. From 2006 to 2008, Duane Smith was appointed by Oklahoma’s Governor to represent state interests as a Chairman of the Western State Water Council. Duane Smith developed and implemented the Beneficial Use Monitoring Program (BUMP), the state’s first monitoring program designed to document beneficial use impairments, identify impairment sources, and detect water quality trends. He has served on the Oklahoma Drought Management Team advising the Governor in providing guidance, relief, assistance necessary to local communities and citizens in mitigating, preparing for, responding to and recovering from the effects of drought. Currently, he is collaborating and updating the Southwest Oklahoma Water Plan, the Panhandle Water Plan, the Northwest Oklahoma Water Plan, and the Arbuckle-Simpson Drought Contingency Plan. Duane Smith has, also, contributed overseas. In December 2003, Mr. Duane Smith traveled to the Middle East to facilitate discussion on water issues with Palestine, Israel and Jordan on behalf of the Center for Peace at the University of Oklahoma. In 2010, he was Employed by the US Army Corps of Engineers and travelled to Afghanistan to work on water, transportation and energy infrastructure. As Chief of the Water and Infrastructure Section of the Joint Programs Integration Office (JPIO) in Kabul, Afghanistan, Mr. Smith worked in a very complex and multi-objective plan involving infrastructure development in Afghanistan. The US Governments’ water, energy and transportation strategies involved a complex inter-relationship between the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the US Embassy, USAID, and the US Forces in Afghanistan. This program provided billions of dollars in development money to assist the Afghan people in becoming self-sufficient. Currently, he is collaborating with the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology to partner with their Pi Institute and the Blue Economy Hub.
Kris Patton is the Director of Natural Resources for the Chickasaw Nation. He has been employed with the Chickasaw Nation since 2016. He previously worked for the federal government for 23 years severing within various land management positions. He holds a Bachelor of Science in environmental management from East Central University. He also earned a Bachelor of Science in wildlife conservation and a master’s degree in technology from Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
Dr. Halihan is a Professor, Interim Department Head and the Sun Company Clyde Wheeler Chair in Hydrogeology at Oklahoma State University, and Chief Technical Officer for Aestus, LLC. Dr. Halihan’s professional interests center in subsurface characterization using electrical hydrogeology and sustainable water supply. He has been an associate editor for Ground Water and has served as the Secretary-Treasurer of the U.S. Chapter of the International Association of Hydrogeologists. He served as the Chair of the Hydrogeology Division and the South-Central Section of the Geological Society of America. He was also the National Ground Water Association’s 2018 McEllhiney Lecturer and 2022 American Institute of Hydrology’s C.V. Theis Award winner.
President Emeritus John R. Hargrave has deep roots with East Central University and it was only fitting that he became president of ECU in July, 2009. ECU experienced immense growth in its facilities when Hargrave assumed the presidency from 2009-2017. In April of 2018, Hargrave assumed the position of Chief Executive Officer of the East Central University Foundation, Inc. President John R. Hargrave graduated from ECU with honors in 1977, majoring in speech and sociology. He later earned a law degree at the University of Oklahoma in 1980 and began practicing law. His wife, Kay Hargrave, a 1978 ECU graduate, is retired as the First Assistant District Attorney for Pontotoc, Seminole and Hughes Counties. They have four adult children and eight grandchildren. Hargrave helped establish the Oka’ Institute, which creates practical water solutions, both locally and globally, driven by research and directed by data that result in long-term sustainable ecological management and economic development. He is also a member of the Citizens for the Protection of the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer (CPASA) as well as a member of the Oka` Board. Hargrave is a member of the Ada City Council where he serves as Vice Mayor. Among Hargrave’s past and current list of civic duties are member of the Ada Chamber of Commerce, past member of the Ada Jobs Foundation Board of Trustees, Mercy Hospital Board, Oklahoma African American Educators Hall of Fame Board, chair of the Council of Presidents for the Great American Conference and past chair of the Council of Presidents for the Regional University System of Oklahoma (RUSO). He is also on the board of trustees for the Oklahoma Excellence in Education Foundation and the Oklahoma Heritage Higher Education Hall of Fame Board of Directors and a recipient of the Friends of the Chickasaw Award.
Dr. Guy W. Sewell
Dr. Guy W. Sewell is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of water resources, contaminant fate and transport, and the treatment of hazardous waste. Dr. Sewell is a Board Certified Environmental Scientist through the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAEES), with a recognized specialty in groundwater and the subsurface environment. Dr. Sewell has also a served as a designated Technical Subject Matter Expert for Los Alamos National Laboratory and the US-EPA’s ERG Support Contract, and has published over 50 scientific papers on topics such as groundwater quality, subsurface ecology, environmental cleanup and water resources, and made scientific presentations at numerous national and international meetings, and currently serves as a member of the ITRC Managed Aquifer Recharge Team. Dr. Sewell was a member of the East Central University faculty from 2002 until 2023 and held the Robert S. Kerr Endowed Chair and the rank of Professor of Environmental Health Sciences. At ECU he served as the founder and Director of Research and Development for The Oka’ Institute at ECU. Prior to coming to ECU, Dr. Sewell was a research microbiologist with the U.S. EPA at the Robert S. Kerr Environmental Research Center where he served as Research Team Leader for the Biotransformation, Subsurface Ecology, Ecosystems Restoration and Lake Texoma Research Groups. Dr. Sewell received a B.S. in Microbiology with a Minor in Chemistry in 1980, and a Ph.D., in Microbiology in 1987 from Oklahoma State University. He then accepted a Gas Research Institute Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Molecular Biology at the University of Florida. Dr. Sewell has also completed Environmental Economics Program in 2000 at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and in 2001 returned from a Sabbatical as a Visiting Researcher in Bioinformatics at the University of Oklahoma. Dr. Sewell is also the president of Sewell Environmental Associates, LLC, an Ada based environmental consulting firm, which focuses on 3rd-Party Technical Oversight, Phase 1 and II Environmental Site Assessments for real estate transactions, remedial system design and employee safety training. Dr. Sewell serves or has served on various local boards, clubs and committees including Arbuckle Federal Credit Union (Board Chairman), the Ada Water Resources Board (President), and the Ada City Council (Ward 4) and as Mayor of Ada. He is also past president of the ECU faculty senate and Ada Sunrise Rotary, and a member of the AAEES, National Ground Water Association, and the American Water Resources Association. Guy has been married to Holly (Andrews) Sewell since 1980. They have two adult daughters, Major Shannon E. Sewell, USSF and Gessica D. Sewell, Esq. Expert Witness Experience: Oklahoma Department of Transportation/Baily Cook Testimony at County and District level (Environmental Site Assessment, multiple cases) Testimony in Administrative Court: Midship Pipeline/Orrick (Erosion/hydrology, Ground water, Dewatering)
Dr. Douglas Beak
Dr. Douglas Beak is a graduate of The Ohio State University where he received his doctoral degree in 2005. Dr. Beak currently is a research geochemist at the Center for Environmental Solutions and Emergency Response (CESER) that is part of US EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD). Dr. Beak has been a principal investigator for a few high-profile projects, such as EPAs Hydraulic Fracturing Study. During his time at US EPA, he has developed expertise in the following research areas: enhanced aquifer recharge (EAR), water reuse, and aquifer storage and recovery (ASR); green infrastructure (GI), hydraulic fracturing, emerging contaminants, fate and transport of inorganics in the environment, and metal and metalloid speciation in sulfidic environments. Dr. Beak’s current research efforts center around water quality issues (natural and anthropogenic) associated with the use of EAR and GI using various source waters for the augmentation of groundwater.
Dr. Sabrina Beckmann
Dr Beckmann is an Assistant Professor in Geomicrobiology at Oklahoma State University. Her research is at the interface between environmental and applied microbiology and electrochemistry. She specifically focuses on the microbial metabolism in water columns and sediment from groundwater to the deep sea. She is studying the ecology of microorganisms, their physiology, and the biochemistry of microbial processes in the environment that are tied to the cycling of methane, isoprene, and contaminants, aiming to discover novel enzymes and microbial processes contributing to a better-protected environment. Dr Beckmann also contributes research expertise to our society by working with local energy businesses and OSU dining services to enhance microbial bioplastic degradation and methane formation from food waste at OSU’s dining services based on her patented innovation that has been applied at full-scale biowaste reactors. Dr Beckmann obtained her PhD (2011) at Oldenburg University (Germany) and worked as a Postdoctoral Associate and Lecturer (2011-2019) at the University of New South Wales (Australia), the University of Delaware (USA), Exxon Mobil (USA) and is an Associate Editor with Frontiers Microbiology (USA).
Dr. Tingying Xu
Dr. Xu is an assistant professor in Geochemistry at Boone Pickens School of Geology at Oklahoma State University. Her research investigates (bio)geochemical processes that control mineralogy and trace metal cycling in aquatic systems. Dr. Xu’s research is aimed to obtain fundamental understanding on chemical interactions between water and rocks and how these processes affect biogeochemical element cycling, nutrient bioavailability, metal contaminant fate, and mineral weathering and transformations, and how those processes are impacted by anthropogenic activities and then develop novel (bio)remediation strategies of contaminants to improve the quality and health of water. To accomplish these goals, her research group applies laboratory-based analytical and microscopy tools, synchrotron-based X-ray spectroscopic and scattering methods, microbiological and molecular biological techniques.
Dr. Yipeng Zhang
Dr. Zhang is an assistant professor in Hydrogeology at Boone Pickens School of Geology at Oklahoma State University. By training, he is a numerical modeler and physical hydrogeologist. He combines finite element/finite difference numerical models with field observations and lab measurements to understand the roles that groundwater plays in geological processes that have broad societal impacts. The specific research topics include induced earthquakes due to waste fluid reinjection by the hydrofracking industry, impact of glacial loading on integrity of nuclear waste disposal repositories in high latitude countries, and offshore groundwater exploration in continental shelfs for coastal city drinking water supply. His research at OSU involves benefit assessment of enhanced aquifer recharge (EAR) for rural areas in southern Oklahoma. EAR involves injecting freshwater into an aquifer when freshwater is in excess, and later recovering freshwater through the same well by pumping when water demand exceeds supply. EAR is increasingly used worldwide to maintain, enhance and secure freshwater availability without the need for land acquisition, in-stream barriers, or losses from evaporation that occur from surface water reservoirs. Dr. Zhang got his B.S. in Geology from Jilin University and obtained his M.S. in Hydrology and Ph.D. in Earth and Environmental Sciences, both from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.
Dr. Stephen Agong
Dr. Stephen Agong’ is a visiting Professor at ECU as part of a collaboration between ECU, the Oka Water Institute and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology (JOOUST) in Bondo, Kenya. He does research, teaches courses, and works on grants at the Oka’ Institute. Dr. Agong’ holds the Robert S. Kerr Chair in Environmental Science for the 2023-2024 School year. Agong’ teaches Integrated Water Resource Management as part of a faculty for the International Short Course on IWRM between ECU and JOOUST. Agong’ holds a doctorate in Agronomy and recently retired as Vice Chancellor of JOOUST. He is also the founder of the Global Pi Institute on the banks of Lake Victoria in Kenya, Africa. He was inspired to found the institute after learning about the Oka Institute at ECU. Previously, he has served as the Executive Director the African Academy of Sciences and. He is the Founding Chairman, Horticultural Association of Kenya (HAK) and a recipient of the Matsumai International Fellowship for Peace Award. He has widely published in internationally peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Agong is a member of many professional organizations including the International Society of Horticultural Sciences. He has wide exposure to regional and international research, mentorship, and academic leadership, and maintains international networks that bring scientists together with dedication to human resource development and the promotion of university education, knowledge economy, science and technology in Africa.
Dr. Christine Pappas
Christine Pappas, J.D., Ph.D. is the Oka Institute’s Policy and Education Coordinator as well as the Director of ECU’s Water Resource Policy and Management Master of Science. She has published on water conservation and tribal water policy. Pappas earned her law degree at the University of Nebraska.
Dr. Saba Tahmassebi
Saba Tahmassebi is the director of EPA’s Robert S. Kerr Environmental Research Center (aka, Kerr Lab) in Ada, Oklahoma. Saba advocates for applied customer-focused research and building stronger relationships with research universities and Native American tribes. Previously, Saba was the Agency Chief Engineer for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality where he was involved in several environmental programs. Saba earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of California at San Diego, and masters and doctoral degrees in petroleum engineering from the University of Southern California and the University of Oklahoma, respectively. He is a registered Professional Engineer licensed in Oklahoma. Saba is also a university faculty member teaching environmental technology and chemistry courses.
James Eldridge is a community and economic development professional with experience in rural economic development, entrepreneurial ecosystem building, and urban redevelopment. James has helped communities create economic development strategies, launch new programs to support local businesses, and build capacity for new growth. He is passionate about creating inclusive economic opportunities and applying an innovative approach to economic and community development at the local level. James most recently served as the President and CEO of the Ada Jobs Foundation in Ada, Oklahoma, where he led work to secure an Economic Development Administration Build to Scale Venture Challenge award in 2021 and organized a community digital economy strategy for Ada with support from the Center on Rural Innovation. He has also led efforts resulting in Ada being designated an Oklahoma Center of Workforce Excellence and helped create and administer Ada’s Business Improvement Grant which has created over $700,000 of new investment in Ada’s downtown. Prior to joining the Ada Jobs Foundation, James was Executive Director of the Uptown 23rd District Association in Oklahoma City, and has led multiple urban research projects, including research on food truck entrepreneurs in Oklahoma City. James currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the International Economic Development Council’s Accredited Economic Development Organization Committee and is the incoming President for the Oklahoma Chapter of the American Planning Association. He has previously served as President of the Oklahoma Business Incubator Association, as Treasurer of the Oklahoma Governor’s Economic Development Marketing Team, and as a Board Member of Select Oklahoma. James is a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD), graduate of the OU Economic Development Institute. He holds a Master’s in Regional and City Planning from the University of Oklahoma, and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).
Kenneth Corn was born October 8, 1976, to Elester and Katy Corn in Poteau, Oklahoma. A Howe High School graduate, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in 2005 from the University of Oklahoma. Corn served in a number of national civic organizations and on the National School-to-Work Advisory Council for the U.S. departments of education and labor. Corn was the State President of Future Business Leaders of America and served as National President during his senior year in high school. He worked as a legislative intern for James Hamilton, the appropriations chairman of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and former President Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma Senate. Corn served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1998 to 2002. He was 22 at the time of his election and one of the youngest Oklahomans elected to serve in the State House in the state's history. During his tenure, he was appointed the first freshmen lawmaker in thirty years to serve as vice chair of a major committee, Revenue and Taxation. Corn later served as chair of the committee on Tourism and Recreation. In 2002, he was elected to the Oklahoma State Senate at the age of 25, making him the second youngest state senator elected in the state's history. Corn served in the Oklahoma Senate until 2010. As a Senator, Corn was tapped as Chair of the Retirement and Insurance Committee and served six years on the State Pension Commission. With these responsibilities, he had oversight over billions of dollars in assets. Corn was also appointed as Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety and Judiciary. Historic investments were made to improve law enforcement pay and benefits as well as infrastructure during his committee leadership. In the Legislature, Corn worked for major changes to the state's retirement system for public employees. He also authored a resolution to put a state question on the ballot that would create an emergency road fund. In addition, in 2004 he was the primary author to the bill that funded health insurance costs for all Oklahoma teachers working in the public schools and authored legislation that raised teacher pay, moving it closer to the regional average. In 2005, Corn was the principal architect in the Senate for the largest investment in roads and bridges in state history at the time. Oklahoma's Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training was reformed under Senate Bill 920 authored by Corn as well. Corn was appointed to serve as City Manager of Anadarko, Oklahoma on March 31, 2005. At the time of his appointment, Anadarko had been operating in a deficit. Corn overhauled the City's purchasing process, billing systems and renegotiated contractual obligations bringing the city back to financial stability and allowing significant investments in capital improvements. Corn renewed partnerships with the federal, state, county and tribal governments that generated over $4 million in grants awarded to Anadarko and completed large capital improvements for the city, including significant upgrades to City sidewalks, roadways, landscaping, public art, and to Anadarko’s parks. In addition, by gaining support of industries, local businesses and tribal governments, Corn developed festivals including Hoppy Day, Zombies-in-the-Park, Kites-and-Flights, and a traveling Easter Bunny and Santa, all free to the public. During his tenure, Anadarko has withstood historic weather, including a “hundred-year flood,” ice storms and record-breaking Arctic temperatures. During each crisis, Corn became widely acclaimed by Anadarko citizens for working on sight with city crews and updating people via Facebook Live. On February 24, 2022 Corn was appointed to serve as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) State Director for Rural Development in Oklahoma by President Joseph Biden, Jr
City Manager Tishomingo Oklahoma. Graduate of Western Texas College Snyder TX. Early career in the golf course industry managing various properties including Four Seasons Resort and Club Las Colinas TX where I hosted the PGA Byron Nelson gold tournament. Other courses included Shady Oaks Country Club Fort Worth TX, Mira Vista Golf Club & DeCordova Bend Granbury TX. Later career in the Agricultural industry as a regional manager for Nufarm Americas & Alligare Inc. Responsible for the implementation of sales and management of a 63 million dollar portfolio. Currently, owner of Houser’s furniture in Downtown Tishomingo & Stay Golden Inn with wife Carrie Golden. City Manager of Tishomingo Oklahoma beginning July 2020. Currently responsible for oversight of new water treatment plant. Implementation of new wastewater treatment plant and supplemental water pipeline. Actively, working on long-term strategic plan for water sustainability for the city of Tishomingo
Scott Thompson is the Executive Director of the Oklahoman Department of Environmental Quality, a role he has served in since December 2013. Prior to his appointment as Executive Director, Thompson was the director of DEQ’s Land Protection Division, and he has been with DEQ since it was created in 1993. Thompson has overseen many programs within the agency, including Superfund, Brownfields, and Voluntary Cleanup and is responsible for reimagining DEQ’s permitting and enforcement processes to better serve Oklahoma. Thompson holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Central State University and a master’s degree in environmental science from the University of Oklahoma.
Brian M. Nazarenus
For more than 30 years, Brian's practice has focused almost exclusively on helping water users find, secure, and defend their water rights in Colorado and the Western U.S. His clients include municipalities, water and wastewater sanitation districts, mines, golf course developers, energy companies, and various commercial facilities. Brian serves as a trusted advisor, providing strategic guidance on long-term water planning and water rights projects. InColorado,Brian’s experienceincludestheadjudicationofsurfaceandundergroundwaterrights, the development and adjudication of augmentation plans, water rights transfers, and exchange cases. Brian has also litigated and negotiated settlements regarding complex tribal water claims and represented clients in state permit proceedings in other Western States. Water Rights in Colorado. Brian has handled substantial water rights litigation involving both trial and appellate matters before the Colorado Supreme Court, the Colorado Court of Appeals, the Colorado Water Courts, and the Colorado State Engineer. Brian’s representative water rights work in Colorado includes: • Serving as lead counsel in the adjudication of water rights for several Colorado power plants. • Serving as lead counsel in the adjudication of complex water rights systems for large mining operations in Colorado. • Serving as lead counsel in the adjudication of municipal water supplies for major Denver suburbs. Water Rights in Other Western States. Brian also represents clients in other western states in major water rights litigation, including litigation in federal court regarding Tribal Water Rights. In addition to appearing before federal district courts, he has argued appeals regarding water rights matters to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Brian's representative water rights work in other Western states includes: • Litigation regarding Tribal Water Rights in Oklahoma, resulting in an historic water rights settlement that was enacted in federal legislation. • Multiple complex matters, including litigation in federal court and related settlements, involving Bureau of Reclamation and Corps of Engineers projects. • Federal court representation in actions against water projects based on the Endangered Species Act. • Representing municipal clients in state administrative permit proceedings. Regulatory Leadership. Brian served as a member of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission from 1999 to 2008, including as the Commission's Chair from 2006-2007. Activities & Affiliations • American Bar Association Natural Resources and Litigation Sections • Wyoming Bar Association • Colorado Bar Association Water and Environmental Law Sections Distinctions Brian is recognized in Colorado Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America and Chambers USA for his work in water rights, natural resources and environmental law. In addition, Brian has been selected "Best Water Lawyer" in Law Week Colorado's annual Barrister's Best issue in 2010, 2012, and 2014-2019. Brian has earned an AV-Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbell. Education University of Colorado • Juris Doctor, 1987 • B.A., History, 1980 Bar Admissions • Colorado (1987) • Wyoming (1994) • Oklahoma (2012)
Brent Kisling is a husband, dad, deacon, and public servant. Born and raised on a farm and ranch in rural Northwest Oklahoma, he graduated from Burlington High School and then attended college at Oklahoma State University. During his time at OSU, Brent served as State President for the Oklahoma FFA and was named Outstanding Graduate from the College of Agriculture. Following graduation, Brent went to work for U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe before being appointed by the George W Bush Administration to be the State Director for USDA Rural Development. While working all eight years with the President’s administration, he oversaw the rural housing, utilities, and business programs state-wide. For 13 years, Brent and his wife owned and operated Maple Place Bed and Breakfast in downtown Enid. When they sold the business in 2012, it had become the largest bed and breakfast in the state. In March of 2009, Brent was named as the Executive Director of the Enid Regional Development Alliance and in 2019, Brent was appointed by Governor Kevin Stitt to serve as the Executive Director for the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. During his time in state service, he helped manage Oklahoma’s economic response to the COVID pandemic and focused on the growth of Oklahoma’s legacy companies and the importance of community engagement. In 2023, Brent started NexTo LLC through which he works “next to” businesses to help them grow, “next to” communities through a joint venture with Retail Attractions, and “next to” people through a local ministry in Enid. Brent has served as the Chair of the Oklahoma FFA Foundation, the 2020 Census Complete Count Committee, and the Governor’s Economic Development Council. He was named the 2022 Leadership Oklahoma Graduate of Distinction and was named the 2021 Oklahoma Energy Champion by the Advanced Power Alliance. A black and yellow text with a cross Description automatically generatedIn 1995, Brent married the girl of his dreams, Jennifer, and they have two grown children, Layne and Bree, who reside in Oklahoma with their spouses. He is a deacon at the First Baptist Church of Enid where he also teaches Sunday School