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Corrections Board chooses Ward as new DOC director

ALVA, Okla. (AP) _ The state Board of Corrections decided Thursday to keep the interim director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections permanently.

Board members voted to name Ron J. Ward as James Saffle's replacement during an executive session at the Charles E. ``Bill'' Johnson Correctional Center. David Miller, the department's chief of administrative operations, was the other candidate.

Ward was chosen for his experience, enthusiasm and dedication, search committee member Beverly Young said.

``He is very knowledgeable of all operations of the corrections facilities,'' Young said.

Ward was appointed interim director in May. He had served as associate director since November.

Ward said maintaining secure and safe corrections sites and the agency's budget will be his priorities.

Board members gave Ward an annual salary of $110,000, the maximum allowed by the Legislature.

Ward began his career with the department in 1980 as a correctional officer at what was then Ouachita Correctional Center. He served as training officer at the George Nigh Staff Development Center in Taft from July 1986 to December 1987. He then became chief of security at the James Crabtree Correctional Center in Helena.

Ward also has served as deputy warden at the Jackie Brannon Correctional Center and the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. He was appointed as warden of the Howard McLeod Correctional Center in 1992 and later became warden at the state penitentiary in 1994.

In addition to selecting Ward, board members discussed the department's projected budget shortfall for the 2002 fiscal year.

The medical budget will be spent by February, and the contract budget will fall short in March, Miller said. The department could then get a supplemental appropriation from the state. The agency is projected to be underfunded by $62.2 million, he said.

Miller said the department already has asked Gov. Frank Keating to include the issue in the coming legislative special session.

Members also approved a resolution for an inmate telephone system. Testing will begin this summer at Jackie Brannon Correctional Center in McAlester and the Alva correctional center.
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