[Image via EAC]
NOTE: The blog will take a break for the holidays and will return on Tuesday, January 2 2018.
electionline’s Mindy Moretti caught up with retiring Louisiana state election commissioner Angie Rogers for the latest installment in electionlineWeekly‘s “exit interview” series:
Angie has been Louisiana commissioner of elections for more than a decade, through several secretaries of state and one life-changing hurricane.
The Civil Service League recently honored Angie with the Monte M. Lemann Award, which is the highest civil service award given to administrators and unclassified employees in the state.
“When Louisiana voters go to the polls to cast their ballot on Election Day, the person behind the scenes, ensuring not only each citizen’s right to vote, but also their right to a fair and impartial election system, is Angie Rogers,” Secretary of State Tom Schedlersaid in a release on the announcement of the award.
“There is no greater demonstration of democracy than fair and reliable elections, and Angie has been integral to that work here in Louisiana under the leadership of several secretaries of state, including myself. Angie’s legal background, coupled with her instinctive determination and focus, provide the perfect framework in overseeing Louisiana’s complex election system. Her influence in an area so critical to our nation’s core beliefs and values is immeasurable and touches the lives of every one of Louisiana’s three million registered voters,” Schedler said.
On a personal note, I first met Angie in 2006 when I headed to New Orleans to cover the post-Katrina rescheduled mayoral election. Angie was beyond helpful to me in my work and her steadying hand was evident throughout that Election Day with genuinely happy and grateful voters heading to the polls with many of them seeing friends and neighbors for the first time since the storm. Thank you so much Angie for all you’ve done for electionline and the voters of Louisiana. We’ll miss you!
Why have you decided to retire at this time (clearly you’re nowhere near retirement age! 🙂 )?
Thanks for the compliment Mindy and who knows what retirement age is right or not, but I felt like it was the right time for me after 33 years of state service! I decided to retire simply because I was eligible and young enough to hopefully have many wonderful years of doing all those things we have to put off or put on hold in order to work elections! Of course I plan to fill my days with family, friends, travel and just waking up late on Election Day!!
What are you most proud of during your time in the Louisiana secretary of state’s office?
I’m most proud of the team that we have built in Elections, which was divided by two different state departments just prior to my appointment as Commissioner of Elections. We are now one, not just in being one department but in being one team who thinks about each other and the reactions that our actions have on each other in the elections process from start to finish. And of course I have several highlights in my career at the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office that were tough times, like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but those memories make me smile when I think about our team and what we did to help the citizens of Louisiana who were displaced all over our country be able to participate in the Orleans Mayoral election in 2006.
What would you say is the most difficult thing you faced during your time running elections in Louisiana and how did you deal with it/what did you learn from it?
I think the most difficult thing for me in elections from the first day that I started was in keeping everyone calm during the “fires” that seem to have to be put out each day leading up to an election and especially on Election Day. I try to manage from a calm state and help our leaders and elections partners weather the “fires” of elections and learn that while there is no perfect person (except God) or no perfect election, that we have the processes and people in place to be able to handle everything we need for a successful election.
Is there anything you were not able to accomplish as elections commissioner that you really wish you had?
I am retiring before we will invest in a new technology for voting in Louisiana and although I am not going to be part of that process, I feel good about the foundation that I was part of building in elections that I know will be part of the new voting system.
What are your thoughts about women in positions of leadership in elections? There aren’t many at the state level despite dominance locally. What’s your advice to young women seeking to take the next step?
All that I knew growing up was that I wanted to be a lawyer like my dad. I never thought about being a leader, it just came natural to me to become a lawyer and get a job and like most if not all of us in elections, I just stumbled into this field and then fell in love with it! I also don’t think of gender for leadership positions. I’m a firm believer in the best person should have the job. So my advice is to work hard and do something that you find passion in doing and the rest will fall into place.
In an increasingly partisan world, what advice would you give to an up-and-coming elections official to deal with that?
I will share the advice that I received from the late Al Ater, who was acting Secretary of State during the hardest times dealing with Hurricane Katrina and a wonderful leader to work with! Al reminded everyone that we are the referees in elections, just like the referees in football that do their best to make sure the game is played by the rules and fair. If you keep that in mind, you can’t go wrong!
If you could design the perfect elections system, what would it look like?
Oh that’s easy … I call it pajama voting where I can sit on my couch and vote in my pajamas … smiley face!
What innovations would you like to see the elections community work on in the future?
I want to see less elections in Louisiana. We have worked hard on this for many years and we have reduced our elections to twice a year instead of four times a year. So while we have made great improvements, it is still too many elections in a year and it wears out the interest in voting in my opinion.
Anything else that you would like to add would be greatly appreciated.
In closing I’d like to say a big “THANK YOU” to all the wonderful people that I have had the privilege of meeting and working with not only in Louisiana but all over the country that I think fondly of, not only as colleagues but as friends! I have learned so much from so many and I will look with joy on my career days and wait patiently to find out what God has in store for me in this next exciting chapter of my journey. Best wishes to everyone in Elections! I will be thinking of you on Election Day!
Thanks as always to Mindy for these interviews – and thanks to Angie for her decades of service to the State of Louisiana … she will be missed but it’s clearly a well-earned retirement!