Speaker Date Topic
Dennis Brigham Oct 19, 2017
Polio Plus
Citrus Sales Oct 26, 2017
4-Way Speech Contest Nov 02, 2017
Judge Thad Balkman Nov 09, 2017
The Judiciary in Oklahoma
The Judiciary in Oklahoma

Thad H. Balkman was born on October 23, 1971, in Long Beach, California. He graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic High School in 1989, received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Brigham Young University in 1994, and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Oklahoma College Of Law in 1998.

While in law school, Balkman clerked for Judge Charles Johnson of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. Following admission to the Oklahoma Bar Association in 1998, Balkman began in private practice as an associate with the Stanley M. Ward law office in Norman. In 2000 he was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives, where he served three terms. During his tenure in the House, Balkman was a member of the Judiciary Committee and was elected Majority Caucus Chairman. Balkman returned to private practice in 2007 where he focused on alternative energy law, start-ups, and political and legislative affairs.  Balkman also served as General Counsel for the Association of Professional Oklahoma Educators from 2003-2004.

Balkman was a founding member of the Oklahoma Lawyers Association in 2008 and served as its Executive Director. He was recognized by Oklahoma Super Lawyers as a Rising Star in government relations and by The Journal Record as an Achiever Under 40.

On October 7, 2013, Governor Mary Fallin appointed Balkman a District Judge for the Twenty-first Judicial District.  His appointment followed the retirement of Judge Tom Lucas. Judge Lucas had served Cleveland County as a District Judge since 1994.Balkman’s duties include handling felonies, civil cases, divorces, and the truancy docket. He has also presided over the community sentencing docket and Anna McBride (Mental Health) Court. He served as the Chief Judge for the Twenty-first Judicial District in 2016.

Balkman is a member of the American, Oklahoma and Cleveland County bar associations. He is a graduate of Oklahoma Bar Leadership Academy. Balkman serves on the Executive Committees of the Oklahoma Judicial Conference and the Oklahoma Judges Association. He is the President-Elect of the Oklahoma Judicial Conference. He is a member of the Civil Oklahoma Uniform Jury Instruction Committee.

Balkman is past president of the Brigham Young University Management Society Oklahoma City Chapter and serves as the Sooner District Chair for the Boy Scouts of America Last Frontier Council.

His honors include Eagle Scout; membership in the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy‘s Child Advocates Hall of Fame; and Oklahoma Substance Abuse Services Alliance Legislator of the Year.

He is married to Amy Arrowsmith. They have five children. They are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Judge Balkman enjoys disc golf, reading and riding his bike.

Melissa Houston, JD Nov 30, 2017
Oklahoma Labor Commissioner
Oklahoma Labor Commissioner

Melissa McLawhorn Houston serves the State of Oklahoma as Commissioner of Labor. She was appointed to office by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin on November 20th, 2015.

Houston is an experienced administrator in state government and has considerable experience in state agency operational management, legislative process, and budgeting. Houston also has an in-depth background in public policy and played a key role in criminal justice reform efforts and federal anti-terrorism legislation. As a survivor of the Oklahoma City Murrah bombing, she is a frequent speaker on the impact of terrorism.

Previously, she served as Chief of Staff for the Oklahoma Attorney General and for the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security.

Houston attended the University of Oklahoma where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Letters and a Juris Doctor. She is active in the community serving on several boards including the Oklahoma City National Memorial and is a graduate of Leadership Oklahoma and Leadership Norman.

She and her husband, Ben Houston, who also is an attorney, live in Norman with their two young sons.