For Immediate Release
April 21, 2022
ORA Media Contact:
Chief Strategy Officer
800-375-8181 ext. 229
New CEO Elected by Oklahoma Restaurant Association
Oklahoma City, OK – April 21, 2022 – The Oklahoma Restaurant Association (ORA) prepares to welcome Senator James Leewright of Bristow, as their newly approved President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
The newly elected CEO was unanimously approved by the ORA Board of Directors at its March 29th Board of Directors Meeting in Tulsa. Leewright plans to leave his Senate seat at the conclusion of his 2022 Oklahoma State Legislative Term.
“Because of his experience, James is keenly aware of the challenges small business owners face as they strive to grow and we know he is committed to advocating for no undue burdens on Oklahoma’s restaurant and hospitality businesses who provide jobs, economic growth, and a broader tax base. He is familiar with leading and responding to the needs of constituents, and serving the ORA membership will be similar in nature,” said Thomas Hunter, 2022 ORA Chair and owner of RICARDOS Mexican Restaurant.
“James has the ideal background to lead our association. His extensive and relevant business experience combined with his tenure in the legislature made him the ideal candidate. We are excited about the future of the ORA under his leadership,” Craig Bothwell, Chair of the ORA Search Committee.
Senator James Leewright was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2014 and in 2016 was elected to the Oklahoma State Senate representing District 12 Creek and parts of Tulsa counties.
“I look forward to leading the Oklahoma Restaurant Association as the newly elected CEO. The ORA has an esteemed history of serving the industry and I am excited to build on those strengths to even better serve the men and women of the hospitality industry. With the current hurdles facing the industry, weakened supply chains, rising food costs, and workforce shortfalls, I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and working for and with ORA members to address these issues and more,“ said James Leewright.
After working for a Fortune 500 company for many years in oil and natural gas commodity trading, Leewright owned Dynamic Restoration, and after 17 successful years sold the business to serve District 12.
As a small business owner, Leewright was named Entrepreneur of the Year for Creek County in 2007 and one of Oklahoma’s Top 40 Under 40 Professionals in the State by Oklahoma Magazine. He has been a Big Brother for Big Brothers and Big Sisters, served on the Board of Directors, and Executive Board, and was past President of the Sapulpa Chamber of Commerce. He is also past President of the Sapulpa Ambassadors. Leewright currently serves as a board member for Youth Services of Creek County and as a Governor on the Board of Governors for Oklahoma State University Foundation and on the Board for the Sapulpa Arts Council. Leewright has received two citations from the Oklahoma House of Representatives for civic and business accomplishments.
As a legislator, Senator Leewright was named to leadership positions in the House, which is rare for a first-term legislator. In leadership, he was appointed asst-whip and served as vice-chair for Banking and Financial Services. Leewright also served on Higher Ed and Career Tech, Government Oversight and Accountability, and the Appropriations and Budget for Transportation Committee. In the Senate, as a freshman senator, he was named Chairman of the Business, Commerce, and Tourism Committee, a first in state history, and also has served on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural Resources, Retirement and Insurance, Appropriations and Budget, Judiciary, AG and Wildlife, and Transportation Committees. Senator Leewright also serves as third in leadership for the Senate as Assist. Majority Floor Leader, Chair of the Rural Broadband Council, Chair of the Infrastructure Committee for ARPA, and Chair of the Medical Marijuana working group.
Leewright and his wife Cari have four children and are both native Oklahomans who have a small ranch near Kellyville. He holds a BS from Oklahoma State University and MBA studies from Oklahoma City University.
Founded in 1933, the Oklahoma Restaurant Association is the trade association of restaurants and foodservice operations, the state's largest private industry employer. Representing more than 4,500 restaurants and members, the ORA actively monitors legislation and regulatory agencies; helps foodservice management develop and strengthen business; and develops the membership to do together for the industry what cannot be done individually.