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Historic Day in Alabama as Oath-of-Office Given To Cabinet-Level Minority Affairs Director

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Governor Robert Bentley, right, administers the oath of office to Nichelle Nix, the director of the cabinet-level Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs. Nix’s husband, Leroy Nix, holds the Bible.

Governor Robert Bentley on Tuesday conducted an oath-of-office ceremony for Nichelle Nix, the director of his new Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs, a cabinet-level position under legislation approved in the 2016 legislative session and signed into law on May 11.

Governor Bentley conducted the ceremony for Nix, formerly an attorney with Maynard Cooper & Gale, whom he appointed by executive order in March as director of the new office.

Legislation sponsored by Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, and Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, in the just-concluded session established the cabinet level office. “The office will remain a part of all future governors’ cabinets and is an important liaison between minority communities and the governor,” Governor Bentley said.

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The governor signed the legislation earlier this month but conducted a ceremonial signing in the Old House Chamber on Tuesday. Attending were members of Nix’s family, business leaders, members of the Legislative Black Caucus, and administration members.

In his remarks, Sen. Smitherman said Business Council of Alabama President and CEO William J. Canary and he discussed working together on economic issues to benefit all Alabamians. “He made a commitment to support the office that will coordinate things and even lobbied for its creation,” Sen. Smitherman said.

“I appreciate the support that business gave that I felt was committed to the office, not just to create the office and have something to show, but opening up the opportunities for business to have apprenticeships and channels for communications for minority businesses to participate in Alabama’s economy,” Sen. Smitherman said. “Lots of times we don’t have information on where to go to participate in whatever it takes at that level and the opportunity to benefit.”

Calling Tuesday “an historic day,” Nix said she and Canary have talked about working together. “I have developed a greater awareness for segments of the community that may need additional assistance, and it is my singular mission to connect minorities and women to opportunities that address their needs and help them reach their full potential,” she said in a statement.

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Canary said Nix is well-known and respected throughout the state and the BCA stands ready to be of assistance to her in this new mission.

“The business community always has had a priority for issues that Nichelle outlines relative to education, economic development, and health care,” Canary said. “This is an important opportunity to create a platform where we can share a united vision for all Alabamians and that’s why we so actively supported creation of this cabinet post. We commend Governor Bentley for his leadership.”

Nix has served in the office for two months and witnessed passage of HB 534 that elevated the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs to cabinet level.

Nix has extensive non-profit and political experience. She worked in Washington, D.C., for former U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, and led the Mobile Chapter of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America. Most recently she was in Government and Regulatory Affairs practice at Maynard Cooper & Gale.

Governor Bentley said Alabama now is the second state in the nation to have a cabinet-level position devoted to minority and women’s affairs.

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“When I created the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs in March, I wanted a resource and a new perspective on addressing minority and women’s issues in Alabama,” Governor Bentley said.

The GOMA will advise on issues affecting minorities, including women, and will focus on the improvement of the overall quality of life of minorities, specifically in the areas of education, health, economics, political participation and empowerment, housing, employment, civil rights, criminal justice and race relations.

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Legislators and others attending Tuesday’s ceremonial signing of legislation elevating the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs to cabinet level status are, from left,  Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville; Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham; GOMA Director Nichelle Nix; Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Gallion; Governor Robert Bentley (seated); Rep. Rod Scott, D-Fairfield; Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery; Rep. Oliver Robinson, D-Birmingham; Rep. Louise Alexander, D-Bessemer; Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee; Rep. Berry Forte, D-Eufaula. Not pictured was Sen. Quinton Ross Jr., D-Montgomery.

“This office is important for the future success of our state, and I appreciate the Legislature for passing it,” Governor Bentley said of HB 534. “I believe it is time to devote the appropriate resources and training to identify and address these issues.”

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Dana Beyerle
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