By MARY SELL, ALABAMA DAILY NEWS
Alabama Clerk of the House Jeff Woodard retires Friday after 10 years as the chamber’s staff leader and a State House career that stretches decades and more than 100 regular, organizational and special legislative sessions.
Prior to being elected clerk in 2012, Woodard worked in the clerk’s office and for two speakers of the House starting in the early 1990s. His first State House role was a 13-year stint as a reporter covering the Legislature.
The clerk of the House gives parliamentary advice to elected officials, keeps the chamber’s records and is responsible for the intricate moving of paper that comes with the back-and-forth passage of bills. Woodard supervises a staff of 53 full-time people. During sessions, additional staff is needed.
Woodard said he won’t miss the late legislative nights, but he will miss the people.
“We’ve got a good staff and when you go through the pressure-cooker experiences we all have, you get to know people and you have to rely on them,” he said.
“… And I’ll miss the legislators themselves, you make a lot of friends after you’ve been up here a long time.”
Clerks are elected by House members. Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, originally nominated Woodard for the job.
“During his service, Jeff Woodard has earned the trust of both sides of the aisle, which is why he has enjoyed such a long tenure as a House employee,” McCutcheon said.
“While his institutional knowledge of the House and its operations will be missed, I know that all members join me in wishing Jeff a long, happy and healthy retirement.”
Woodard said one of his priorities as clerk has been public access.
“I’ve tried to make things more open,” Woodard. “If people drive three hours to the State House to testify before a committee, I tried to make sure they got some kind of accommodation.”
And in recent years, the public has been able to watch more legislative action from home, via livestreams.
“The more people have access to the process, the better that process will be,” Woodard said.
Still, not every State House committee room is live streamed and the dwindling number of reporters covering the Legislature concerns Woodard.
He said the State House press corps had about 25 members when he was a reporter. Now, there are less than 10.
“And you think about that, and how much political coverage has suffered because of that,” he said. “If things aren’t getting covered by the media, a lot of times the public just doesn’t know what’s going on.”
McCutcheon has selected John Treadwell as interim clerk. He has been deputy clerk this year and was previously with the Legislative Services Agency.
House members will vote to elect a permanent clerk when they convene for an organizational session, likely early next year.
“I’m confident that John Treadwell’s own experience and knowledge will allow him to perform admirably as interim clerk and continue the professionalism and efficiency that has become a trademark of the House staff,” McCutcheon said.