Three more join the OK Policy team

Carly Putnam
Carly Putnam

Oklahoma Policy Institute is excited to introduce three new staff members who are joining the organization.

Carly Putnam is our new full-time policy analyst. A recent graduate of the University of Tulsa with a BA in Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies, she joined OK Policy as an intern in the summer of 2013. She will assume full-time responsibilities in January. A native of Kansas City, Carly is a graduate of the National Education of Women (NEW) Leadership Institute, worked as an editor for the TU campus newspaper, tutored students at Will Rogers High School, and interned with Planned Parenthood. Her work at OK Policy will focus on healthcare, poverty, inequality, and race and gender. Carly replaces Tiece Dempsey, who left us this fall to serve as law clerk for Judge Vicki Miles-Lagrange. Contact Carly.

Kara Joy McKee
Kara Joy McKee

Our outreach work will be shared by Kara Joy McKee, who will have the title of Outreach Specialist, and Damario Solomon-Simmons, who will be our Legislative Liaison. Kara Joy grew up in Central Oklahoma and moved to Tulsa last year. She is an OU graduate and has been active for years with the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, Oklahoma Sustainability Network, and other community projects. She currently serves as part-time Executive Director of Kendall Whittier Inc., a non-profit that works to improve the quality of life of residents in Tulsa’s Kendall-Whittier neighborhood. Contact Kara Joy.

Damario is a Tulsa native who received both his undergraduate and law degrees at OU, where he was a football letterman and the first African-American to be recognized as Most Outstanding Law Graduate. He is an attorney and lobbyist in practice practice, adjunct faculty member at OU, acclaimed motivational speaker, and diversity consultant to major private sector companies. Contact Damario

Damario Solomon-Simmons
Damario Solomon-Simmons

Both Kara Joy, who is joining Oklahoma Policy Institute as a half-time employee, and Damario, who will be working on a contract basis, have terrific outreach skills and experience. They will work to strengthen and mobilize our network of advocates across the state through the Together Oklahoma coalition and through direct work with policymakers and community leaders. They replace our former outreach team of Megan Benn and Cindy Cason.

At the same time, OK Policy is reorganizing the duties and job titles of our current staff:

  • Gene Perry will be the Policy Director for the organization. Gene has been a policy analyst since joining OK Policy in 2011. As policy director, Gene will supervise policy staff and help with developing and implementing our policy goals, as well as maintaining responsibility for education, criminal justice, and budget and tax issues.
  • Kate Richey will assume the position of  Project Coordinator for the Oklahoma Assets Network, a statewide coalition that promotes proven tools to help all Oklahomans save and invest for the future.  Since joining OK Policy in 2011, Kate has been a policy analyst and has led the Oklahoma Assets Network since 2012.
  • David Blatt, who has been OK Policy’s director since 2010, assumes the title of Executive Director.

Our Office Manager, Shiloh Kantz, continues in that position.

With the new hires and job responsibilities, OK Policy continues to grow our capacity to produce credible, data-driven policy information and help build the case for policies that ensure fair and adequate funding of public services and expansion of economic opportunity.

For  full information on our staff, visit the staff page of our website.


Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

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