After 10 years in elected office, Secretary of State Beth Chapman will resign the last day of this month to take a job in the private sector.
Following her announcement Monday, Gov. Robert Bentley said he would move quickly to appoint a new secretary of state. He said, and a spokeswoman later confirmed, that he would not appoint any of the three candidates who have announced they will run for the position or anyone expected to run for the position.
“We will do that very soon, so we can ensure a smooth transition in the office,” the governor said.
Chapman, a Republican who was elected state auditor in 2002 and who was elected secretary of state in 2006 and 2010, will step down with 17 months remaining in her term. She announced in April she would not seek another office in 2014; term limits prevented her from running again for Secretary of State.
“I’ve been given a once in a lifetime opportunity in the private sector,” she said.
Chapman said the new position is in political and public relations consulting, and would “absolutely” be in Alabama, but declined to be more specific.
Although people have approached her about lobbying, Chapman said “at this point I have not discussed lobbying with anyone.”
With the death of her husband James two years ago, Chapman said she has become the sole provider for her family, with two sons she is putting through college and a grandson she wants to help eventually attend college. Her sons are 22 and 19.
“Lot of doors have opened so quickly,” said Chapman.
She said she might have viewed the situation differently if she could run for a third term, and would consider running again “if the situation presents itself and the timing is right” and her family is self sufficient.
“When you lose your husband at age 50 to an illness that is totally unexpected, you realize how short life is and how quickly life can change,” Chapman said.
Chapman said she “is leaving the office in far better shape than I found it,” and feels “very good about the move” with a confident and capable staff in place. Much of her staff is long-term staff that has worked for her for much of her time in office.
Asked whether she had encouraged Bentley to appoint one of her top staffers to the position, Chapman said she has had discussions with Bentley about people, personnel and the appointment. She said she met with him as recently as Monday about the issue, but said that was a “very private conversation.”
Bentley said he is developing a list of potential people for the position and said it would be unfair to others running for the office to appoint a candidate seeking the position. He said Chapman informed him of her plans last week.
Rep. John Merrill of Tuscaloosa, Crenshaw County Probate Judge Jim Perdue and former Montgomery County Probate Judge Reese McKinney, who lost his bid for reelection in 2012, have all confirmed they are seeking the Republican nomination for secretary of state. No Democrats have announced their intention to run for the office.
Chapman said she was proudest of her office creating a faster, more efficient and more effective way for members of the military to vote; of moving forward with photo identification for voters in the state; and with moving business filings and campaign finance reports online when very few documents were online when she came into office.
“We have really brought the office into the technology world and that is up to speed now,” she said
Bentley praised Chapman’s service, saying she had done a “good job” on a number of issues, particularly in voting for military deployed overseas.
Chapman said the office also took a stand against voter fraud, managed the largest presidential election in the state in 2008 (and the second largest in 2012), and added 250,000 more voters to the rolls.
“I have loved this job. It is a job that was made for me and I was made for it. It is term limited. There are only 17 more months left,” Chapman said.
But she said she supports term limits.
“I do not think they should be changed,” Chapman said. “I believe it is good a person can only serve two four-year terms.”
– posted by Sebastian Kitchen