Stitt’s confidants are his wife, friends
The most important figure in Kevin Stitt’s world is his wife of 20 years, Sarah. The two talk numerous times a day, though the near-constant presence of other people around Stitt in the past year has made texts between them more common.
Their best time to talk, she said, is typically early in the morning, before the kids are up, when they can “bounce things off each other.”
Kevin, 45, and Sarah, 40, built a company together, Gateway Mortgage Group, and they built a family together. As the family grew to six children, Sarah became less involved in the daily machinations of the company.
A gifted public speaker, Sarah was utilized by the campaign whenever she was available for groups large and small, and she was featured in several campaign ads.
“We knew we couldn’t tell Kevin’s story without her,” said Cam Savage, the lead consultant for the Stitt campaign.
Sarah helped Stitt craft speeches during the campaign. As it progressed, they began to discuss the role she would play as first lady.
“We really view this as a team effort,” she said.
In her public remarks, she spoke about the differences in their personalities: hers focused on achieving as many tasks as possible during the day and his on setting long-term goals. Sarah said both need to be comfortable with the people in leadership roles around them.
“I know him better than anyone,” Sarah said, and that means she can spot potential trouble spots in relationships.
Sarah is planning to spend the first few months at the family home in Tulsa so the eldest child can finish her senior year in high school. As first lady, she wants to focus on mental health and addiction.
Like Kevin Stitt, Aamon Ross had never been involved in politics. His first exposure was running a statewide campaign for governor.
“June 26th, August 28th and November 6th were my first, second and third watch parties,’’ he said.
Ross and Stitt met through a ministry in Tulsa to mentor young professional men that is run by Dave Jewitt
A Colorado native, Ross, 43, moved to Tulsa from Los Angeles to live near siblings attending Oral Roberts University. He met his wife, Kristen, a Muskogee native, on a blind date. She is a recipient of the TCC StartUP Cup, an award given to entrepreneurs, for her PregoFit website.
The Rosses have three daughters, some of whom played basketball and soccer with daughters of the Stitts. Ross and Stitt coached some of their teams.
“We had a blast doing that,’’ he said.
After agreeing to run the campaign, Ross had to hire staff and vendors and stay on top of thousands of details, including what town was having a popular festival that Stitt needed to attend. Ross and Stitt also dove into issues that were totally foreign to them, visiting schools and government institutions and businesses to figure out how things operate.
Ross is, like many of those in Stitt’s inner circle, a trusted friend first. Stitt asked him to sit in on meetings while the campaign was being formed — before Ross officially joined up — and he has been on the meetings about forming the administration. He said Stitt “appreciates and respects my opinion.”
Stitt and Corbin McGuire bonded one summer during college selling books door to door for the Southwestern Company. Stitt heard about McGuire from a friend and recruited him at the University of Oklahoma for a bookselling team. They have been friends for about 25 years.
“People can do so many things, but you have to have someone believe in you,” McGuire said. “That’s the gift he’s already given, the gift of belief.”
McGuire, 45, has never worked for Stitt’s mortgage company, and his title with the campaign, chairman, was an honorary one. McGuire operates a recruiting company in Tulsa.
He was among the close circle that helped launch the gubernatorial campaign, and he helped raise money at the beginning. McGuire frequently hit the campaign trail with Stitt, and he is part of the transition team.
McGuire downplayed the value of his own advice in picking an administration and said there wasn’t a specific type of advice Stitt had ever sought from him.
“He doesn’t need to be hearing from friends,” he said. “He needs to be hiring a team.”
McGuire said he was not interested in working for state government.
Raised in Amarillo and a graduate of Baylor University, Donelle Harder spent the first nine years of her career in Washington, D.C., which included working for U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, running communications for his office and the committees he chaired or served as ranking member.
In 2016, Harder moved to Oklahoma with her husband and two children to work for the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association, before joining Stitt’s campaign in 2017.
“I had hoped to get out of politics when I came back to Oklahoma,” Harder said. “But I was really frustrated with the state things were at in Oklahoma, and I wanted more for my children and my family, because this was our forever state.”
Harder served as Stitt’s spokeswoman, playing a significant role in shaping the campaign’s message.
Stitt’s campaign centered on his outsider status at a time when state government had faced financial challenges in recent years.
“While outsider is the easiest way to brand someone when you have to deliver a 15-second message, I believe it’s (Stitt’s) genuineness and authenticity in how he answers things that really gets people to connect with him and trust him,” Harder said.
Harder is a member of Stitt’s transition team and is involved in interviews to hire administration staff.
Kevin’s older brother, Keith, is an attorney in Tulsa. When Kevin began thinking about running for governor, Keith introduced him to Marc Nuttle, a Norman attorney and businessman with decades of experience in Republican politics.
Nuttle has been leading the transition effort.
Before the Stitt campaign launched, Keith, who is 48, also accompanied Kevin to meet with some longtime Republican activists who had moved from Norman to Florida.
“Kevin’s question wasn’t whether he could win but whether he could move the needle” as governor, Keith Stitt said in an interview.
Keith helped raise money for Stitt in the early days of the campaign and served as a sounding board.
“I’ve never seen him lose,” Keith said. “I’ve never seen him shy away from a challenge. He will forge his way and find a way to make it work.”
Keith is working on details for the inauguration ceremony and celebrations.