The secretary of state of Wisconsin is an officer of the executive branch of the government of the U.S. state of Wisconsin and the second in the order of succession of the governor of Wisconsin, behind the lieutenant governor. The secretary of state is responsible for keeping records of the official acts of the legislative and executive branches of Wisconsin's government and affixing the Great Seal of the State of Wisconsin to the official acts of the governor.
As second in the order of succession to Wisconsin's governorship, the secretary of state becomes governor if the governor dies, resigns or is removed from office while the lieutenant governorship is vacant; prior to a 1979 amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution, however, the secretary simply became acting governor if any of these events were to occur. No secretary of state has ever ascended to the governorship or acting-governorship under such circumstances. Both before and after the 1979 amendment, the secretary becomes acting governor while the governor is absent from the state, impeached or incapacitated in the absence of a lieutenant governor. Some secretaries of state have acted as governor for short periods of time under such circumstances.
Under the original terms of the state constitution, the secretary of state was elected for a two-year term on a separate ticket from the governor or any other official. A 1967 amendment increased the term of the secretary of state, as well as those of other state officials, to four years. There is no limit to the number of terms a secretary of state may hold. In the event of the death, resignation or removal from office of the secretary of state, the governor may appoint someone to fill the vacancy.
Twenty-eight individuals have held the office of secretary of state since Wisconsin's admission to the Union in 1848, two of whom—Fred Zimmerman and Douglas La Follette—served for non-consecutive terms. The first secretary of state was Thomas McHugh, who took office on June 7, 1848. The current secretary is Douglas La Follette, who took office on January 3, 1983; his current term expires in 2023.
Secretaries of state
Secretaries of Wisconsin Territory
From 1836 until 1848, what is now Wisconsin was part of Wisconsin Territory. The Organic Act which created the territory provided for the office of a secretary, to be appointed by the president, whose duties consisted of recording the proceedings of the territory's legislature, and the laws it produced, as well as the proceedings of the territorial governor. Additionally, in the event of the inability of the governor to serve—due to death or various other circumstances—the secretary was to assume the governor's powers and carry out his duties.
|#||Name||Appointed||Left office[note 2]||Territorial Governor||Appointed by|
|1||John S. Horner||April 30, 1836||February 16, 1837||Henry Dodge||Andrew Jackson|
|2||William B. Slaughter||February 16, 1837||January 25, 1841||Henry Dodge||Andrew Jackson|
|3||Francis J. Dunn||January 25, 1841||April 23, 1841||Henry Dodge||Martin Van Buren|
|4||Alexander Pope Field||April 23, 1841||October 30, 1843||Henry Dodge||John Tyler|
|5||George R. C. Floyd||October 30, 1843||February 24, 1846||James Doty||John Tyler|
|6||John Catlin||February 24, 1846||March 3, 1849[note 3]||Henry Dodge||James Polk|
Secretaries of state of Wisconsin
|#||Name||Party||Took office||Left office[note 4]||Governor||Terms[note 5]|
|1||Thomas McHugh||Democratic||June 7, 1848||January 7, 1850||Nelson Dewey||1|
|2||William A. Barstow||Democratic||January 7, 1850||January 5, 1852||Nelson Dewey||1|
|3||Charles D. Robinson||Democratic||January 5, 1852||January 2, 1854||Leonard Farwell||1|
|4||Alexander T. Gray||Democratic||January 2, 1854||January 7, 1856||William Barstow||1|
|5||David W. Jones||Democratic||January 7, 1856||January 2, 1860||William Barstow||2|
|Arthur MacArthur, Sr.|
|6||Louis P. Harvey[note 6]||Republican||January 2, 1860||January 6, 1862||Alexander Randall||1|
|7||James T. Lewis||Republican||January 6, 1862||January 4, 1864||Louis Harvey||1|
|8||Lucius Fairchild||Republican||January 4, 1864||January 1, 1866||James Lewis||1|
|9||Thomas S. Allen||Republican||January 1, 1866||January 3, 1870||Lucius Fairchild||2|
|10||Llywelyn Breese||Republican||January 3, 1870||January 5, 1874||Lucius Fairchild||2|
|11||Peter Doyle||Democratic||January 5, 1874||January 7, 1878||William Taylor||2|
|12||Hans B. Warner||Republican||January 7, 1878||January 2, 1882||William Smith||2|
|13||Ernst G. Timme||Republican||January 2, 1882||January 5, 1891||Jeremiah Rusk||4[note 7]|
|14||Thomas J. Cunningham||Democratic||January 5, 1891||January 7, 1895||George Peck||2|
|15||Henry Casson||Republican||January 7, 1895||January 2, 1899||William Upham||2|
|16||William H. Froehlich||Republican||January 2, 1899||January 5, 1903||Edward Scofield||2|
|Robert La Follette, Sr.|
|17||Walter L. Houser||Republican||January 5, 1903||January 7, 1907||Robert La Follette, Sr.||2|
|18||James A. Frear||Republican||January 7, 1907||January 6, 1913||James Davidson||3|
|19||John S. Donald||Republican||January 6, 1913||January 1, 1917||Francis McGovern||2|
|20||Merlin Hull||Republican||January 1, 1917||January 3, 1921||Emanuel Philipp||2|
|21||Elmer S. Hall||Republican||January 3, 1921||January 1, 1923||John Blaine||1|
|22||Fred R. Zimmerman||Republican||January 1, 1923||January 3, 1927||John Blaine||2|
|23||Theodore Dammann||Republican||January 3, 1927||January 7, 1935||Fred Zimmerman||4|
|Walter Kohler, Sr.|
|Philip La Follette|
|Theodore Dammann||Progressive||January 7, 1935||January 2, 1939||Philip La Follette||2|
|24||Fred R. Zimmerman||Republican||January 2, 1939||December 14, 1954||Julius Heil||71⁄3[note 8]|
|Walter Kohler, Jr.|
|vacant||December 14, 1954||December 16, 1954||Walter Kohler, Jr.||1⁄3[note 9]|
|25||Louis Allis||Republican||December 16, 1954||January 3, 1955||Walter Kohler, Jr.||1⁄3[note 10]|
|26||Glenn M. Wise||Republican||January 3, 1955||January 7, 1957||Walter Kohler, Jr.||1[note 11]|
|27||Robert C. Zimmerman||Republican||January 7, 1957||January 6, 1975||Vernon Thomson||8[note 12]|
|28||Douglas J. La Follette||Democratic||January 6, 1975||January 3, 1979||Patrick Lucey||1|
|29||Vel R. Phillips||Democratic||January 3, 1979||January 3, 1983||Lee Dreyfus||1|
|30||Douglas J. La Follette||Democratic||January 3, 1983||Incumbent||Anthony Earl||10[note 13]|
- Wisconsin has had 28 secretaries of state. Two served non-consecutive terms, and are thus counted twice in this table. Theodore Dammann changed his party and is therefore counted twice also.
- When there is no evidence to the contrary, it is assumed that territorial secretaries left office the same day their successors were appointed.
- Wisconsin became a state on May 29, 1848; however, portions of the territory which are now part of Minnesota were not included in the state; some were of the opinion that this area continued to be Wisconsin Territory. Henry Dodge took his seat as a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin on June 23, 1848, thus precluding the possibility that he continued to be the Territorial Governor. John Catlin therefore declared that, as Secretary, he was the acting governor of Wisconsin Territory, an office he exercised until the organization of Minnesota Territory on March 3, 1849.
- When there is no evidence to the contrary, it is assumed that secretaries of state left office the same day their successors were sworn in.
- The fractional terms of some secretaries of state are not to be understood absolutely literally; rather, they are meant to show single terms during which multiple secretaries served due to death.
- Earlier editions of the Wisconsin Blue Books refer to the sixth secretary of state as "Louis P. Harvey" and make it clear that he and "Louis Powell Harvey", the seventh governor of the state, are the same man. More recent editions, however, refer to the seventh governor as "Louis Powell Harvey" and the sixth secretary of state as "Lewis P. Harvey".
- During Timme's first term, the Wisconsin Constitution was amended to say that all elections of state and county officers would henceforth take place in even-numbered years. By the provisions of the amendment, the terms of all officials who would have left office in 1884, including Timme, were extended by one year.
- Died in office.
- Vacant due to death of secretary of state.
- Appointed to fill vacancy.
- Before his death, Fred Zimmerman was elected to a ninth term as secretary of state, to last from 1955 until 1957. Wise was appointed to fill this term.
- As per a 1967 amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution, Zimmerman's eighth term, beginning in 1971, was the first to last for 4 years
- Secretary La Follette's tenth term expires on January 9, 2023.
Other high offices held
This is a table of governorships, lieutenant governorships, congressional seats, and ranking diplomatic positions in foreign countries held by former Wisconsin secretaries of state.
|Name||Term||Other offices held|
|William Barstow||1850–1852||Governor of Wisconsin|
|Louis Harvey||1860–1862||Governor of Wisconsin|
|James Lewis||1862–1864||Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin; Governor of Wisconsin|
|Lucius Fairchild||1864–1866||Governor of Wisconsin; Minister to Spain|
|James Frear||1907–1913||Representative from Wisconsin|
|Merlin Hull||1917–1921||Representative from Wisconsin|
|Governor of Wisconsin|
- Barish, Lawrence S. (ed.) (2007). "Chapter 6: Executive Branch". State of Wisconsin Blue Book 2007–2008 (PDF). Madison, Wisconsin: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. pp. 508–509. ISBN 978-0-9752820-2-1. Archived from the original on 2011-08-11. Retrieved 2008-05-10.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, ed. (2007). "Wisconsin Constitution (Article V)" (PDF). State of Wisconsin 2007–2008 Blue Book. Madison: Wisconsin Legislature Joint Committee on Legislative Organization. p. 214.
- Barish, Lawrence S. (ed.) (2007). "Chapter 8: Statistical Information on Wisconsin". State of Wisconsin Blue Book 2007–2008 (PDF). Madison, Wisconsin: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. pp. 720–723. ISBN 978-0-9752820-2-1. Archived from the original on 2011-08-11. Retrieved 2008-02-29.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- "Vel Phillips". Topics in Wisconsin History. Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
During the absence of both the governor and lieutenant governor, [Secretary of State] Phillips served as acting governor, though only briefly....
- Barish, Lawrence S. (ed.) (2007). "Chapter 3: Wisconsin Constitution (Article XIII)". State of Wisconsin Blue Book 2007–2008 (PDF). Madison, Wisconsin: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. pp. 234–235. ISBN 978-0-9752820-2-1. Retrieved 2010-04-19.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)[permanent dead link]
- Barish, Lawrence S. (ed.) (2007). "Chapter 8: Statistical Information on Wisconsin". State of Wisconsin Blue Book 2007–2008 (PDF). Madison, Wisconsin: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. p. 692–693. ISBN 978-0-9752820-2-1. Archived from the original on 2011-08-11. Retrieved 2010-04-20.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Tuttle, Charles Richard (1875). An Illustrated History of the State of Wisconsin. Boston, Massachusetts: B. B. Russell. p. 189. Retrieved 2008-02-24.
- Manual for the use of the assembly, of the state of Wisconsin, for the year 1853. Madison, Wisconsin: Brown and Carpenter, Printers. 1853. p. 118. Retrieved 2008-02-24.
- The History of Racine and Kenosha Counties, Wisconsin. Racine County, Wisconsin: Western Historical Company. 1879. pp. 42–52. Retrieved 2008-02-24.
- The History of Racine and Kenosha Counties, Wisconsin. Racine County, Wisconsin: Western Historical Company. 1879. pp. 55–56. Retrieved 2008-02-24.
- Anderson, William J. (1929). William A. Anderson (ed.). The Wisconsin blue book, 1929. Madison, Wisconsin: Democrat Printing Company. p. 144. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
- Toepel, M. G.; Hazel L. Kuehn, eds. (1960). "Wisconsin's former governors, 1848–1949". The Wisconsin Blue Book, 1960. Madison, Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Library. p. 97. Retrieved 2008-03-07.
- "LA FOLLETTE BEGINS ANOTHER TERM" (PDF). The Oshkosh Northwestern. January 7, 1935. p. 1. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
- "Heil Becomes Wisconsin Governor" (PDF). The La Crosse Tribune and Leader-Press. January 2, 1939. p. 1. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
- "Badger Governor Takes His Oath Of Office Today" (PDF). Ironwood Daily Globe. January 7, 1957. p. 10. Retrieved 2008-03-06.
- Christofferson, W. L (January 6, 1975). "Inaugurations Today" (PDF). Wisconsin State Journal. p. 4. Retrieved 2008-03-06.
- "Inaugural Caps Dreyfus Miracle" (PDF). Ironwood Daily Globe. Ironwood, Michigan. January 4, 1979. p. 3. Retrieved 2008-03-06.
- "Earl discusses financial crunch" (PDF). Ironwood Daily Globe. Ironwood, Michigan. January 4, 1983. p. 11. Retrieved 2010-04-21.
- "Governor Lucius Fairchild". National Governors Association. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
- "FREAR, James Archibald". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 2008-08-28.
- "HULL, Merlin". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 2008-08-28.