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Longest serving Senate secretary retires
[January 21, 2011]

Longest serving Senate secretary retires

MONTGOMERY, Jan 21, 2011 (The Decatur Daily - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The man who served as secretary of the Alabama Senate for 48 years retired this week.

But Charles McDowell Lee, 85, who became Senate secretary in 1963, will have a new job when the Legislature convenes March 1.

Lt. Governor Kay Ivey said she asked Lee to "provide counsel to the lieutenant governor," particularly on parliamentary procedures.

Former Assistant Secretary of the Senate Patrick Harris will be the new Senate secretary.

Lee joked that he would not take a salary for his new job but would work for his good friend Ivey for tires and gas money.

Lee's training in the parliamentary process began even before he came to the job.

The scope of that knowledge is why the National Conference of State Legislatures used Lee to train secretaries or chief clerks of Senates in other states.

The organization's records showed Lee was the longest-serving Senate secretary or chief clerk in the country -- and one of the highest paid.

The secretary of the Senate, according to the Code of Alabama, serves as an "information bureau" for senators and the general public, keeps a list of bills introduced and all bills reported by standing committees, makes available to senators copies of all bills passed, and furnishes the Legislative Reference Service with a copy of each bill enrolled.

Ivy, whose chief duty is to preside over the Senate, said she wants to keep Senate discourse civil, and Lee will help keep things on track.

Before his retirement, Lee was one of a few remaining employees of the Legislature hired under a system adopted in the 1930s that allowed Senate secretaries and House clerks to earn tenure.

Because of that, he received cost-of-living raises when other state employees did.

At retirement, his salary was more than $289,000 per year, according to records on

In an interview soon after the state established, Lee said money was not his motivation for coming to work.

"I have no idea what my salary is, and I did not know it when they hired me," he said.

Lee said it was the love of the legislative process that kept him coming to work every day at 6:30 a.m.

"I guess you could say it's my life," he said.

To see more of The Decatur Daily, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2011, The Decatur Daily, Ala.

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