Farewell to OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley

On June 30th, 2023, I will be leaving my position as your Executive Director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association. I have accepted the position of Director of Oklahoma State Parks, Lodges, and Golf with the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.

As many of you know, I spent 23 years of service in Oklahoma’s Tourism and Recreation Department. During my career, I worked my way through the ranks of the department starting as Curator where I then earned the following positions of Park Supervisor, Park Manager, and then ending as Northeast Regional Manager.

It is with great honor that I have been allowed to serve in the role as your Executive Director at the Oklahoma Public Employees Association since March of 2007. When I accepted the position, I was hopeful and confident I could help guide the association into the future and educate individuals about the critical services state employees provide to the state of Oklahoma. I hope that I have been able to contribute to OPEA’s mission of improving state employment over my tenure.

What I did not fully realize is how important OPEA is not only to members but to our state agencies and those who use agency services. I learned that as OPEA advocates for members and improved state employment, it is also advocating for improved services for the citizens of Oklahoma. OPEA truly advocates on behalf of the four million Oklahomans and countless visitors who rely on the services that our agencies provide.

I have always believed that Oklahoma’s greatest asset happens to be the people of Oklahoma – and I now know that the Great State of Oklahoma’s State Employees are at the top of this list.

This journey would not have been possible without the support of my wife and two sons. They agreed to uproot their lives and move to Oklahoma City to allow me the opportunity to serve as Executive Director. I want to thank my wife Samantha who supported me and kept me grounded during the tough times. My sons Austin and Hunter left the school they had attended their whole life to move to Oklahoma City. I love you and thank you for supporting me.

I offer my sincere thanks to Dixie Jackson, Pat Hall, and Connie Stockton as well as fellow staffers, both past and present, which bring their expertise and work tirelessly on behalf of state employees and retirees. I also thank the current and past OPEA officers and regional directors who guide this association and bring their experience and perspective that is vital to our mission.

“I want to thank OPEA members who see value in joining together to make state employment better. Things can improve for state employment because OPEA members initiate change.”

Those who join OPEA see a bigger, better picture for state employees. OPEA’s work to improve things like compensation and retirement is never-ending and at times seems futile but OPEA members see past that. They see by joining together and working together, it is possible to improve the lives of state employees even as state services evolve and Oklahoma’s political landscape shifts.

I am grateful and humbled by the opportunity to have worked with each of you and have built long-lasting friendships. My respect for State Employees and what you do on a daily basis is immeasurable.

OPEA must look forward just as OPEA’s founders did when they boldly formed the association 48 years ago.

Thank you all for letting me be a small part of the work OPEA does.



Sterling Zearley;

OPEA Executive Director 2007-2023

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