The Women of OPEA

Celebrating Oklahoma Public Employees Association’s History of Women Leaders

OPEA enjoys a rich history of women leadership. These women are fierce advocates for Oklahoma State employees and many have dedicated their lives to the mission of OPEA. This article highlights OPEA’s women leadership since our founding in 1975. OPEA is proud that today half of our Board of Directors, state president, and political action committee president are all women.

Elaine Williamson


Elaine Williamson was OPEA’s fourth president and our first woman elected president. Elaine worked for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission in Oklahoma City. Elaine passed away in 2021.

Dixie Jackson

Dixie Jackson was OPEA’s second elected woman president. Dixie and her late husband Art Jackson are founding members of OPEA. They mortgaged their first house in 1974 in a leap of faith to form the Oklahoma Public Employees Association. Dixie has earned OPEA’s highest honor the Lifetime Achievement Award, which was awarded to her in 2002. Dixie continues to advocate for Oklahoma state employees by serving as the Employee/Legal Advocate Coordinator for the Oklahoma Public Employees’ Association.  Her role is to advocate for the members of OPEA in grievance and agency concerns along with representing members on legislative issues.  Her other positions have included the first female Director of Risk Management and Security at a large inpatient psychiatric facility in Oklahoma, unit manager for a psychiatric hospital, and facility grievance manager with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.  She has served as the State President of the Oklahoma Public Employees’ Association in addition to other positions on the Board of Directors. Dixie attained a B.S. from the University of Oklahoma, and Associate Degree in Emergency Management from Oklahoma City Community College.   

Faye Waits

Faye Waits was OPEA’s third woman elected president. Faye worked for the Department of Human Services in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Faye was awarded OPEA’s highest honor the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. Faye is enjoying her retirement in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

Connie Stockton

Connie Stockton was OPEA’s fourth woman elected president. Connie worked and retired from the Department of Tourism in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Connie is enjoying her retirement in Quintin Oklahoma with her husband Roy, two sons, 2 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren. Connie was awarded OPEA’s highest honor the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. Connie continues to serve Oklahoma state employees as the region 11 Regional Director & Board Member.

Carrie Croy

Carrie was  OPEA’s fifth woman elected state president. Carrie works for the Department of Corrections Probation & Parole in Oklahoma City.

I was the 5th woman elected President of OPEA. In 2001, I moved to Oklahoma after serving as a Hospital Corpsman in the US Navy for over nine years. I completed my bachelor’s at UCO, and my second career started with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections as a Probation and Parole Officer.
I’m winding down my time and now work with our correctional facilities and other states in the Interstate Compact Unit by helping DOC case managers and record officers work on transfers for offenders to move out of state upon their release.
OPEA was the first organization I joined. Since 2003, I was fortunate enough to meet correctional professionals across the US; working towards better pay as well as staffing shortages that correctional professionals face every day, in every state. As much as I felt that I could never do enough for state employees; I fought a hard battle. I pushed myself even more, when OPEA helped form FOP Lodge 219, served as their President, and focused on state law enforcement agencies and their officers and staff. I am grateful for being afforded the opportunity to serve on the board, and even sometimes miss the “hustle and bustle” of our legislative sessions. However, I am even more excited to start the third chapter in my life when I hit my retirement eligibility in 18 months. I’ve been a faithful, public servant for more than 30 years; I never turned my back on what I felt was right no matter the consequences.
I’m a daughter, a sister, a sailor, a disabled Vet, and a WOMAN. I earned everything I accomplished in my life, and as I have stepped back to focus on my mental and physical health; I’m hopeful more women will continue to push forward and never give up. But this Florida girl is ready to go back home to those white, sand beaches in Pensacola.
Thank you, OPEA, and state employees for trusting me to serve you.

Rita Heath – OPEA President

Rita Ann Bobino Heath

Rita is OPEA’s current state president and sixth woman president. Rita works for Oklahoma Transportation out of District #8, in Tulsa Oklahoma as a Utility Coordinator. The work entails Reviewing and processing utility permits within the public right-of-way on the State and Federal highway systems in Oklahoma, and troubleshooting the proper alignment of utilities on highway projects going to construction for the department. She is Native American and grew up in Owasso, Oklahoma, joined the Oklahoma Air National Guard, drove race cars for several years, (pioneering the way for other women to get into the field of racing), Married a wonderful man 43 years ago, and now reside on a small horse farm in Talala, Oklahoma where she currently serves as president of the local American Legion Auxiliary.  Her interests are in Artistic Challenges, Motor Sports, Women’s Rights, and Self Education on a variety of intellectual subjects, including Native American Culture and Language. She graduated from Owasso high school, Owasso Oklahoma. She earned a degree in Applied Science from Rogers University.

Rita Said
“Being President of OPEA has been and will continue to be one of my career highlights. OPEA’s strong presence at the state capitol has reaped many valuable advantages for the employees of the state of Oklahoma. It has been an honor and a privilege to represent all of you on the Board of Directors. I truly believe that everyone deserves to feel that their work is contributing to something that is meaningful to them and others, and in Oklahoma that is crucial in order to reach the highest level of success in our work and everyday lives.”

Sharita Ramsey

Sharita currently serves as the Oklahoma Public Employees Association’s Political Action Committee First Woman & First Black President. Sharita is a proud state employee of 26 years with the Oklahoma Tax Commission and an OPEA member for 20 years. She has three lovely children ages 19, 13, and 9.  Sharita is an active member of her church, where she is an usher, the church secretary and serves on a variety of committees.

Sharita said,
“I believe in fighting for state employees as well. I love to encourage people and push them to their highest potential. My favorite pastimes are watching HGTV, The Food Network, the ID channel, and Oxygen.  The first two represent food that I love and the last two solving crimes. Lastly, I’m proud to be a woman of color!”

Tricia Naifeh Parker

My name is Tricia Naifeh Parker and joined OPEA  2000 when I began my career with the state.

I was elected to the OPEA Board of Directors in 2006 and served as the treasurer until 2017. Later in 2017, I was appointed as a trustee on the OPEAPAC Board. During my time serving on both the association and the PAC boards supporting state employees has always been foremost for me. State employees ARE the backbone of the State, and they are who keep it running.

 During my career, I was employed at EGID as a Member Service Rep. My area of expertise was serving retirees and those individuals preparing to retire. Taking care of health insurance for employees looking at retirement was a very important part of their transition.

 I am now retired, and I love it! I stay active with my family (my grandchildren and my 96-year-old mother) and I continue to volunteer and help wherever I can. One day a week I cook with my brother who used to be in the food business but can no longer get around in the kitchen. I have become his hands and he gets to tell me what to do! (I told him he just likes to boss me around!) We have a great time every week. I am also a personal chef for a family a couple of times a week. I must say COVID really has dampened my usual activities since I love being around others, but I can see a light at the end of this tunnel and can’t wait to be able to get back to all my regular activities.

Jann Ensz

I graduated from Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva in May 1973 with a degree in music education.  After graduation, I worked as a music teacher for three years.  After three years I began working at Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid (NORCE) and held numerous jobs at NORCE for 38 years which included Residential Services secretary and Central Records Supervisor.  I have been a member of OPEA since 1982. I have held many roles within OPEA. Board of Directors for Region 3 and I have served on the Executive Committee as Treasurer, Secretary of Board, Chair of Platform Committee (currently), Chair of Policy and Procedure Committee (currently), Chapter officer and as such recruited new employees during new employee in-service training, graduate of last OPEA Leadership Class, and I am a Lifetime Achievement Award winner, a Volunteer of the Year winner, and served on many other OPEA committees too numerous to mention. I retired in November of 2014 and have continued my activities with OPEA by serving as Regional Director.

Brandi Barker

Brandi Lynn Barker, age 43, began my career with the Tennessee Dept of Corrections in 2000 as an officer, working at West Tennessee State Penitentiary & also Mark Lutrell Correctional Center. In 2004, I moved to Oklahoma and continued my career at James Crabtree Correctional Center as an officer promoting up the ranks to Sergeant in 2008. Later in 2010, I relocated to the Southeast District where I then began as a Case Manager working multiple work centers (Ardmore, Madill & Carter Co) & then transferred in 2012 to the Southwest District working multiple work centers there (Waurika, & Lawton). In 2016, I relocated back to James Crabtree Correctional Center continuing in Case Management to currently.

I was raised in Tennessee, way down yonder on the Mississippi River Bottoms (lol), but born at the Altus AFB where my father was stationed. I am a big OU Sooners fan (Boomer), & have 3 sons, and 2 daughters. Many may not know that I have a love & passion for music and have been playing the piano since I was 5 yrs old, I have an associate’s in Architectural/Commercial Drafting & that I am the oldest of 6 sisters, no brothers.

One of my biggest emotional moments is when I was named Employee of the Year for 2020 at James Crabtree Correctional Center who are truly family & where I am humbled to have their continuous love and support through the biggest and hardest life-changing event.

My goal is to continue to the path in Corrections & continue to always learn and build my knowledge. I was once told by an aspiring leader to me, “Do Good Work, Dare to be Great. . . Just know when to say no”.

Brandi Barker, Case Manager III
James Crabtree Correctional Center

Tracey Ritz

Tracey has been an OPEA member for nearly two decades. Tracy works for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission in Sapulpa, OK. Tracey was appointed by House Speaker Charles McCall to a special role for OPEA, she serves as OPEA’s voice on the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement Systems Board of Directors. Tracey guarantee’s that every decision makes for our retirement is in the best interest of the state employees relying on it.

Weslie Elliot

Weslie represents region 4 as a Regional Director. Weslie works for the Department of Health in Durant, Oklahoma.

Melissa Hudspeth

Melissa represents region 5 as a Regional Director. Melissa works for the Department of Agriculture in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Becky Laiple

Becky Laiple

Becky represents region 8 as a Regional Director on OPEAs Board. Becky works for the Department of Human Services in Tulsa, Oklahoma


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