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I. In Focus This WeekA Profile: Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman
Term-limited Chapman stepping down early to join private sector
Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman has been on the frontlines of some major changes to elections in the Yellowhammer State since she came to office more than six years ago — large-scale expansion of the state’s voter rolls, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the state’s largest election turnout ever — but now she’s ready to watch the administration of elections from the sidelines.
Secretary Chapman, who was term-limited, announced earlier this month that she would be stepping down effective July 31 to join the private sector.
She was the first woman in Alabama history to serve as a cabinet member when she served as the appointments secretary for former Gov. Fob James. She also served as press secretary for former Lt. Gov. Steve Windom. After resigning from Windom’s staff, she ran for state auditor in 2002. She served as auditor from 2003 to 2007.
In 2006 she ran for secretary of state defeating incumbent Nancy Worley by more than 10 percent.
During her tenure as secretary of state, Secretary Chapman was very involved in a variety of issues on the national level, especially ensuring the right to vote for military and overseas voters.
“Secretary Chapman has been a true champion for military and overseas voters. Her dedication, expertise, sense of humor, and willingness to work across party lines to fix problems in our election system will be sorely missed by myself and her colleagues in the elections community,” said David Becker, director of Elections Initiatives for the Pew Center on the States.
She served on the executive board of the Standards Board of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and served as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State.
Following her last day in the secretary’s office, Secretary Chapman will join the Alabama Famers Federation as a political consultant.
On an interesting note, because British kids are making headlines this week, Secretary Chapman’s sons Winston Taylor Chapman and William Thatcher Chapman are named for former British Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.
Her husband of 23 years, James Chapman, died suddenly in 2011 at the age of 50.
During her last few days in office, Secretary Chapman took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions about her tenure as secretary of state.
After six years in office, you've chosen not to seek re-election and are in fact stepping down before your term is complete. Why did you choose not to run again and why step down early?
The death of my husband two years ago turned my world upside down and caused me to reprioritize. I have two sons and a grandson I want to put through college. I recently received a business opportunity in the private sector that was too good to pass by, so I didn't. God opened too many doors for me to ignore. I had to walk through them.
What would you say has been the biggest change you have seen in elections during your tenure?
The recent Supreme Court decision, Shelby County v. Holder has been the biggest change I have seen in elections in my tenure.
What was the most difficult time/issue you faced during your tenure?
The most difficult time during my term of office was the death of my husband. He always told me to take care of the state and he would take care of our home. All of a sudden I had to take care of both. It has been difficult.
As an Alabamian and secretary of state, what are your thoughts about the Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder?
I am proud of the decision of the Supreme Court. Alabama has changed in the past 50 years and our laws should reflect that change.
What do you feel was your greatest accomplishment and why?
The greatest accomplishment my staff and I have made is the help we have been able to provide the military and their voting process - making it easier for them to cast their ballots and ensuring that every one of them counted.
What will you miss most about being secretary of state?
I will miss serving the people of my state. I have always said that the calling to public service is the second highest calling to the call of God. It has been a great honor to serve the people of my state and to fulfill God's calling on my life in that arena for the past decade.
What will you miss least?
I will miss the personal attacks that often come with being a public servant.
As an expert in the field of elections, where do you see the administration of elections going in this country?
There is an incredible need for greater use of technology in the administration of elections, but it must be managed by an even greater safe and secure means.
What's next for you, besides being able to sleep in on election day?
I will be working in political and public relations consulting with major corporations and candidates. I will be public speaking and helping as many charities as I can. And yes, I will be sleeping in on Election Day.
We at Electionline.org wish Secretary Chapman well in all her future endeavors.
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