Last week, I spent some time reflecting upon the work and legacy of our outgoing secretary of state, Matt Dunlap. We truly have been extremely fortunate to have him in this role, working for all of us in Maine.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

Last Tuesday, state legislators met to vote for who would serve in the office next. There was a large field of candidates vying for the office and before I get to who won, I just want to pause to say we are so fortunate!

The secretary of state is a big job. It requires a wealth of knowledge, a tremendous amount of work and unending dedication. And yet we in Maine had not just one but several qualified candidates. That speaks volumes about the level of civic pride and devotion to service in our state.

Well done, us.

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, a truly fantastic candidate won, the embodiment of what the job requires. Our next secretary of state will be state Sen. Shenna Bellows.

OK, I suppose I need to pause here to acknowledge that I was not impartial in this race. I was fully in Shenna’s corner. And my opinion is based upon a lot of history.

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Not only was Shenna born and raised in Hancock County (where I lived for nearly 30 years), but I have also had the good fortune to work with her on a slew of projects and campaigns, including civil rights and voter rights legislation. So my opinion of her as the perfect person to be our next secretary of state is forged from years of listening to her comprehension of the Constitution and watching her work tirelessly for the people of Maine.

After college, a tour with the Peace Corps and a stint in D.C., Bellows returned home to take the reins as executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine.

One of the largest and most important duties of the secretary of state is the oversight and protection of elections. Through her work with the ACLU of Maine on voter protection legislation, Bellows has demonstrated her dedication to fair and accessible elections.

In addition to elections, the secretary of state is in charge of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Anyone who has ever renewed their driver’s license or car registration will fully appreciate Bellows’ intent to make the process easier to navigate and more accessible through the internet.

Lastly, the secretary of state is charged with maintaining the state archives. Most recently, Bellows has been serving as executive director of the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, an organization that deals heavily in archives and historical narratives.

What’s more, in every post, Bellows has not only demonstrated a thorough understanding of policy, she also established a reputation for her ability to work across party lines, earned widespread respect for her adherence to fair play and garnered a large gathering of supporters who admire her work – and her humanity.

We as a state are fortunate. When Shenna Bellows is sworn in this January as Maine’s first female secretary of state, we can look forward to exciting new things on our collective horizon.

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