It was a great honor to welcome Arizona Secretary of State MicheleReagan to Gilbert Rotary.
Sec. Reagan began by asking how many members still had a flip phone? She asked us to think of how difficult it was to switch to a Smartphone. Was it worth it? Yes. When she was sworn in to the office of Secretary of State, the office was way behind in technology and in its business practices…didn’t accept credit cards, residents had to physically go to the office to get anything done. In the 2.5 years she has been in office, the office has become accessible online on computer, smartphone, tablet….anywhere in the world. The Secretary of State is the State’s second highest office. She is in line to govern the state in the absence of a Lieutenant Governor (Arizona doesn’t have one), she covers when Gov. Ducey is unavailable and would succeed him should he resign. She oversees the State Elections System, and the Business Services Division that may see as many as 10,000 official filings a month. She administers a 20 million $ budget and supervises 160 employees (of which < 10 are in elections), manages the State Library System, and the Archives of Arizona (also online azlibrary.gov), a collection of archived memorabilia, public records, genealogy, and territorial maps. Her office has completely digitized the archives and public records and business filings will be coming online soon.
Another of her many “hats” is Chief Elections Officer, even though her office does not register voters, does not mail ballots, set up the election sites, and doesn’t put on elections. That is the job of the 15 County Recorders in Arizona. Her office oversees campaign financing, lobbyists, and decides what gets enough signatures to be put on the ballot. This has been a particularly difficult and volatile political year as Arizona saw 4 elections for the first time in the state – the Presidential Primary, Education and Pension issues, State Primaries and the State General Elections which included President of the United States. Just like a Smartphone, you have apps that don’t perform as you wish they should, so it is with with government, 4 new initiatives work great and one not so well and that’s the only one you hear about in the media. Change, though she stated, involves risk and she is willing to be a risk-taker to update the office because the business of the office could not continue running as it was. The office has updated the election night reporting system in house and all the new initiatives at the Secretary of State Officer will benefit taxpayers and save them money.
Reagan is most excited about a new project she is working on, the only one of its kind in the US, where a citizen can go online and click on a particular candidate, say Michele Reagan and see who has ever contributed to her campaign all in one place. Transparency in government, she feels is a farce. This is an effort to be completely transparent. She really wants to be re-elected to be able to see this project through to completion. Cities and counties can also opt in. There are many good things happening at the Secretary of State’s office, some you read about and “most you don’t.” Reagan was generous to allow questions and discussion on elections and, believe it or not, they are already gearing up for 2018. She spoke also about the 2016 elections not being quite finalized as there is a court date upcoming.
She is proud of her accomplishments thus far. She compared government to dealing with a bank: first there was a punch card and then a lever machine, then it was in to bank by mail and now you can bank online with your smartphone 24/7. This is how she want her office to be…accessible, online, connected and be able to provide the residents of Arizona the very best service possible.
For the Midwesterners in our club, Reagan is originally from Chicago and moved to Arizona the day after she graduated from college at the request of her family to give them one year to help (it has now been 26) begin a business. That business became Fast Signs and after a decade of success the family sold it. She has always wanted to be elected so that she would be a voice for the small business owner who often gets overlooked in government. It continues to drive her passion to see the SOS office became easily accessible. We thank the Secretary for the generous amount of time she spent with us today.