[Image courtesy of Doug Lewis]
Doug Lewis will retire early next year as Executive Director of the Election Center, he announced yesterday in an email to members. As is typical for Doug, there was a short reference to himself (he’ll be 69 next year and wants to spend more time with his family) followed by a long passage lauding the election officials he’s been serving for over 20 years:
You folks, the wonderful men and women who have worked hard to build a profession and to represent what is best about American democracy, have made this a very difficult decision but one that is entirely necessary. You need to know that I have valued every moment in this job.
While many of you believe that you have one of the best jobs in America, mine has been the best job on the planet because I have been able to work with and for you. Election and voter registration administration has changed dramatically in the last 20 years and we have been able to “make democracy better” through your efforts and your willingness to learn and adapt and exhibit a true professionalism that has benefited both democracy and our citizens.
I have admired the professional work ethic and the passionate commitment of election administrators to making this process work for voters. I have observed your absolute pursuit of perfection and the ability to make elections work even when resources have been limited (or almost nonexistent) and when the public doesn’t really know what it is you do.
I know what you have done and it has been my great pleasure to have worked alongside of you and to represent you to policy makers, politicians, candidates, courts, news media and a whole host of advocacy groups. I will miss that role because it was so easy to extol the virtues and practices of the people who serve in this profession. You are simply remarkable people. [emphasis in original]
Doug has been a friend, colleague and mentor ever since I got into “the business” of election administration in the 1990s. He was part of the Advisory Board when we started electionline.org way back in 2001. [In addition, I may or may not have stolen one or more of his countless jokes over the years as well.] His interest in and commitment to improving election administration – including serving as the community’s de facto representative on Capitol Hill during the debates over the Help America Vote Act and the MOVE Act – has been unwavering. The Election Center’s educational efforts, which he championed, have been a constant in a field where partisan fights and policy fads come and go. In short, he was an election geek before election geeks were cool – and he was always generous to people like me seeking to continue his legacy of working with America’s election administrators.
Those of us who consider ourselves election geeks owe a HUGE debt to Doug Lewis. I will miss him, but I am glad to have known him – and will continue his work on behalf of the “remarkable people” in the election field we both love and admire so much.