BY JEANNE K. CALLEN
The Greenville Standard
The Greenville Standard John Merrill is a man of action with a passion for his job. Since being elected and then taking office on Jan. 19, 2015, Merrill has made sweeping changes and vast improvements to his office which has and will continue to make a positive impact on all Alabamians. On Thursday, Nov. 7, Secretary of State John H. Merrill was the guest speaker of Kiwanian and Alabama State representative Chris Sells, at the regular weekly meeting of the Greenville Kiwanis Club. Secretary Merrill is the 53rd Alabama Secretary of State since 1818, and the first thing on his agenda was to evaluate his own office, it’s antiquated practices and it’s employee’s. Starting with a staff of 48, Merrill trimmed 24 of those employees by allowing them to transfer, resign, retire or by releasing them. Now there are 38 employees who operate the office more cost effectively and efficiently. Changes made in his office alone save the taxpayers of Alabama nearly $3 million annually. There are approximately 500,000 documents stored in the four divisions of the Secretary of State’s office, including executive, legislative, elections and business/finance. Merrill told the crowd, “I work for all citizens of Alabama and I try to go where the people are”. Every year Merrill travels to all 67 Alabama counties visiting festivals, churches, schools and stores in order to try and meet as many Alabamians as possible and also to lend a helping hand or get the word out about a wide range of services including voter registration, international adoption and various business services. Now, if you make a payment to any division of the Secretary of State’s office it is deposited in one day, not several weeks or even months like the old system had in place, and this new system eliminates the need to pay extra to have a payment expedited. Merrill said, “We need to start treating the state’s money like it’s our own money. If we don’t look out for the people’s money we are not being the best stewards of the people and our government.” Since 2015, 586,950 Alabamians have registered to vote, bringing the total registered Alabama voters to 3,321,270 thanks to implementing an online electronic voter registration, allowing people to register to vote online and the Secretary of State Voter Registration and Photo Voter ID Mobile Unit that works in communities and will even visit people’s homes to help them register to vote or acquire the ID needed to vote. These mentioned changes are just the tip of the iceberg that Merrill has made since taking office. For a more detailed accounting of the Secretary of State and the office, you can visit: www.sos.alabama.gov Merrill and the Secretary of State office can also be found on Facebook and Twitter, there is even a website for kids: http:// sos.alabama.gov/sos-office/kids In a brochure Merrill provided for the club members, it included a picture of his actual business card and all of his information such as business address, email address, work phone number and cell phone number and he promised he will personally answer calls or reply to anyone who reached out to him. Merrill further said to prove his accessibility to all people, “Everyone in the office of the Alabama Secretary of State including me works for you and it’s the greatest privilege of my life to do so.