Charlie Daniels — our Charlie Daniels — to retire | Arkansas Blog

Charlie Daniels — our Charlie Daniels — to retire

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CHARLIE DANIELS
  • CHARLIE DANIELS
State Auditor Charlie Daniels, a nearly eternal state officeholder, is hanging it up. He won't seek re-election in 2014, he announced today. He'd previously served as land commissioner (five terms) and secretary of state (two terms). He's 73 and won 70 percent of the vote in 2010, but says he's ready to retire.

This further opens the field to a Republican challenger in reddening Arkansas. Republican State Rep. Andrea Lea has said she might run. A Republican even more conservative than Lea, Ken Yang of Benton, is already in the race.

Daniels' name, the same as that of a well-known country musician, has always been credited for his electoral success, but he also was a capable politician with roots deep in what was once a one-party state. It was not name alone that made him the biggest vote getter of the 2002 election cycle, when he won re-election as secretary of state against a challenge by then-First Lady Janet Huckabee. (That might have also had something to do with his opponent.)

Daniels' news release follows:

State Auditor Charlie Daniels says he will not seek re-election when his term expires in 2014. Daniels, a Democrat from Bryant, was elected Auditor of State in 2010 with 70% of the vote, and is currently serving in his first term. Under Arkansas’ constitution Daniels is eligible for a second four-year term, but says after nearly four decades of public service, he is ready to retire. Daniels will turn 74 in December.

Related: Statement by Auditor Daniels

Recalling a career in elected office that began in 1985, Daniels says he has witnessed an enormous evolution in technology in the public sector, changes that offer new and innovative ways to connect with the citizens he serves, and says he’s proud of the services he has been able to bring online. “When we first started in the Land Office, we didn’t even have computers. All of our work was done manually. Today, we offer a way for people to claim their missing money on a mobile phone. Almost everything we do today is electronic. People expect to do business online, and it’s been my goal to meet those expectations.”

As examples, he points to the creation of Voter View, an online resource for voters to view their ballot and polling place, and the launch of online business and commercial services applications such as online franchise tax payment, as two of the more significant and wide-reaching improvements he made during his eight-year tenure as Secretary of State. As Auditor, his office recently launched an e-Filing system for unclaimed property, and connects more and more with constituents through social media and Smartphone applications.

Daniels, who has occupied an office in the Capitol for over 30 years, says his work as Secretary of State in preserving and maintaining the Capitol Building provided some of the greatest rewards of his career. “This building is such an incredible treasure for the people of Arkansas, and that’s always how I thought of it — as the people’s building. My staff used to joke that I would pull weeds out of the flower bed myself and that I had been known to be critical of a wax job on the floor. I took a lot of pride in protecting the Capitol and making it more accessible to visitors.” His administration supervised the renovation of the east entry promenade to the building, repaired bases of all the monuments on the grounds, and turned the first floor of the Capitol into a state-of-the-art visitor’s center.

The offices Daniels held have required close working relationships with county elected officials, and he points to the consensus-building with county clerks and county election commissioners during the implementation of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) as one of his proudest accomplishments. “HAVA required us to change everything we knew about the mechanics of elections. We had to change all the voting machines and get the 75 county clerks on board with a new statewide voter registration system. It was tough, and we didn’t always agree. But we made it work together.”

Under Daniels’ tenure as land commissioner, the office went from generating $300,000 to $12 million in annual revenue, and he was the first commissioner to begin a program for preservation of historic land records kept by the office. His service on the Arkansas Natural & Cultural Resources Council gave him an opportunity to be involved with the preservation of historic sites throughout Arkansas, and oversight of the state’s submerged lands afforded unique opportunities for preservation and care of Arkansas’ natural resources. “Probably my fondest memory in that regard was the discovery of the sunken steamboat that emerged along the banks of the Mississippi during the drought in 1987. It fell to our office to figure out how to best preserve the 19th century artifacts from the boat, which are on display today at Arkansas Tech University.”

As Director of the Labor Department, Daniels created the Office on Women in Work, created a pilot program providing grants to train women in non-traditional jobs, and hosted the first Governor's Conference on Women and Work. Under his leadership, the office became nationally recognized for its innovations in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) programs and Mine Safety and Health Administration programs to improve mining operations in Arkansas.

“I’ve always felt it was a marker of success when another state called my office for advice on imitating a program we’d created, which proved what I’ve always known —even though we’re a small state we are still innovators and leaders, and I’m proud that we’re still setting that standard in my office today,” Daniels said.

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