Governor-elect Josh Shapiro made his first Cabinet appointment on Thursday morning, tapping former Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt to lead the Department of State.
Schmidt’s nomination will go in front of the state Senate, where he needs majority approval from the body. Schmidt can serve with an acting title prior to confirmation.
A Republican, Schmidt was center stage in the 2020 election as vice chair of Philadelphia’s Board of Elections. He was attacked by name by former President Donald Trump and testified at a Jan. 6 committee hearing in June, where he said Trump’s tweet led to threats of violence directed toward him and his family.
“Al Schmidt has a proven track record of defending our democracy, protecting voting rights, and standing up to extremism — even in the face of grave threats — and I am proud to nominate him to be Pennsylvania’s next Secretary of the Commonwealth,” Shapiro said in a statement.
“I am humbled to have the opportunity to serve our Commonwealth in Governor-Elect Shapiro’s Administration – and I am honored to have the chance to continue working to protect the integrity of our elections and strengthen our democracy,” said Schmidt.
“Our elections are the foundation of our democracy, and I look forward to working with anyone – regardless of party – to ensure they remain free and fair here in Pennsylvania, and that we do more to ensure every eligible voter can make their voice heard. As Governor-Elect Shapiro has made clear, there is a great deal of work ahead and I look forward to building partnerships with our colleagues across the Administration and on both sides of the aisle to get that work done.”
Schmidt, a Pittsburgh native, served in government for 10 years with the City of Philadelphia as City Commissioner. During his time as Philadelphia City Commissioner, Schmidt was one of three members of the bipartisan Board of Elections, where he served as Vice Chairman.
During that decade, Schmidt worked with his colleagues to modernize the city’s election operations, improve efficiency, and ensure Philadelphia’s elections were run securely and with integrity. Schmidt produced a number of election-related reports, including investigations that exposed vulnerabilities and irregularities in the election process that needed to be fixed.
“Al Schmidt stood up for our democracy in the darkest of times – and I know he will work with Governor-Elect Shapiro and all of us in the Legislature to protect and expand voting rights in this Commonwealth,” said state Rep. Donna Bullock (D-Philadelphia). “Schmidt is a fair, experienced and dedicated public servant and I look forward to working with him.”
In January 2022, after a decade as Philadelphia City Commissioner, Schmidt joined the Committee of Seventy, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit and nonpartisan good government organization focused on strengthening democracy, combating political corruption, and advocating for government reforms, as President & CEO.
Schmidt was also a former senior analyst at the non-partisan U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and served as a policy analyst for the Presidential Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States. He holds a Ph.D. in history from Brandeis University and a B.A. in history from Allegheny College.
The Department of State protects the public’s health and safety by licensing more than one million business and health professionals; promotes the integrity of the electoral process; supports economic development through corporate registrations and transactions; maintains registration and financial information for thousands of charities, and sanctions professional boxing, kick-boxing, wrestling and mixed martial arts.