Meet Secretary Birdwell
Harry W. Birdwell became the Secretary of the Commissioners of the Land Office in May 2011. Appointed by Gov. Mary Fallin and confirmed by the then-commissioners Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Superintendent of Education Janet Barresi, State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones, and Agriculture Secretary Jim Reese, Birdwell is responsible for managing the state school land trust assets established at statehood.
With a degree in journalism from Oklahoma State University and a juris doctorate degree from the University of Oklahoma, Birdwell brings a depth of knowledge to the job. He served for nearly two decades as vice president of business and external relations and later director of intercollegiate athletics at Oklahoma State University.
His professional career also includes serving as the general manager of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce; executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives; and as a successful investment banker, as well as an active real estate, and oil and gas developer.
Growing up in Fletcher, Okla., Birdwell was involved in FFA projects where he rose to national president. He served as president of the student body and was a Rhodes Scholar nominee while attending OSU.
The Commissioners of the Land Office owns and manages 750,000 acres of land in Oklahoma, making the agency the second largest owner of real estate in the state. More than 1,100,000 acres of mineral holdings provide great opportunity for the trust to grow, with the continuing growth in energy production in Oklahoma. The Land Office has permanent trust investments valued at $2.3 billion.
Before Oklahoma became a state, Congress set aside land in Oklahoma for the sole purpose of generating revenue to support public education. Oklahoma’s constitution establishes the Oklahoma Commissioners of the Land Office as the keeper of the “sacred trust.”
In Birdwell’s first four years as the Land Office secretary, distributions to public education beneficiaries and growth of the investment trust have been unequalled in state history. Over the last four years the Land Office has increased distributions to public education beneficiaries by 57% over any other four-year period in Oklahoma’s history, while growing the permanent trust funds by $700 million.