Originally from Michigan, Scott Gessler’s parents left Detroit when he was four years old, in search of better opportunities. His parents divorced when he was seven, and Scott, his mother, and younger sister moved five times, in Chicago’s western suburbs. A product of public schools, Scott worked hard and took advantage of opportunities. He founded the school soccer team, ran the school newspaper, played tournament chess, and worked in restaurants. Through it all, he earned a spot at Yale University, won a scholarship for summer study overseas, and after college enrolled at the University of Michigan Law School.
After law school and his bar exam, Scott grabbed his bicycle and rode through the West, meeting people in 11 states, over 10 weeks, and 5,300 miles. Sometimes he rode with others, sometimes he stayed at stranger’s homes and farms; he pitched his tent anywhere there was flat ground, and shared stories and experiences with people from all walks of life.
As a newly minted attorney in 1990, Scott started his career in public service, both as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice (focusing on international criminal law) and as a U.S. Army Reservist; his first assignment was at the 10th Military Law Center in Prince George County, Maryland.
After several years in Washington, D.C., Scott returned to the Midwest to help manage his father’s construction company. He attended business school at night, earning an MBA from Northwestern University, and continued his military service, joining the 12th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
Following the deactivation of 12th Group, Scott joined the 415th Civil Affairs Battalion in Kalamazoo Michigan. Within months that unit deployed to Bosnia, where Scott served as a Civil Affairs Officer at British Division Headquarters and later as the officer in charge of a Civil Military Cooperation Center.
Scott returned home after serving overseas and supported his mother. But he had fallen in love with the West, and in early 1997 he packed up everything he could fit in his Jeep and drove to Colorado, in search of a new beginning and new opportunities. He took the Colorado Bar, started a company with a friend, and then took a job as a consultant. He remained in the Army Reserves, drilling with the 407th Civil Affairs Battalion in Arden Hills, Minnesota.
In early 2001 he returned to law. Within four years, he built a legal business from scratch and earned a reputation as one of the state’s top election law attorneys. He then helped start another business, Hackstaff Gessler LLC, where he represented clients in some of the state’s most sensitive political matters, earning awards for his achievements, and taught law at both the University of Colorado and University of Denver. By 2010 the firm had grown to ten attorneys.
In 2010 Scott ran for Colorado Secretary of State, pledging to protect election integrity and run an efficient, customer-friendly office. He defeated the Democrat incumbent and took office in January, 2011.
Dubbed the “Honey Badger of Colorado Politics” for his tenacious and fearless work to protect and improve Colorado’s elections, Scott has transformed the office of the Secretary of State from a sleepy, administrative backwater into an innovative, dynamic, customer-focused organization. By any measure, Colorado’s 2012 Presidential election witnessed higher voter turnout (third best in the nation), improved election integrity, and fewer voting problems than ever before. And military and overseas voter turnout skyrocketed 65%, even as most states saw a decline.
Scott has also improved Colorado’s business climate. Last year he lowered fees, saving business $3.5 million. Under his leadership, the office dramatically improved customer service, won national and international awards for innovation, and rewrote regulations to make it easier to do business in Colorado.
Although not a native of Colorado, Scott had the good sense to marry one. He and his wife Kristi now live in Denver with their five year-old daughter, Sofia. They will soon be welcoming a baby boy into the World.
Scott Gessler – Leadership Record in office . . .
Want someone who supports lower fees, regulatory reform, and effective government? Scott Gessler took over a sleepy, administrative backwater and turned it into an innovative, customer-focused organization. He can do the same with all of state government.
Cutting fees and costs
Secretary Gessler cut fees by $3.5 million. In a time when taxes and fees seem to always go up, Gessler has shown there is another way. He cut fees for businesses, non-profits, and political organizations in one category after another.
Cutting red tape
Since Gessler’s election in 2010, the office has cut red tape and reduced burdens on businesses, by rewriting regulations in clear, easily-understood language. The office applies laws in a common-sense manner, and fines and penalties have dropped substantially.
Protecting military voters.
In Colorado, military and overseas voter turnout skyrocketed over 65% for the 2012 presidential election, while other states saw a decline in military and overseas turnout. The Military Voter Protection Project praised Colorado, saying “Colorado’s success was truly extraordinary given the decrease witnessed by many states in 2012.”
Protecting and strengthening our elections
Scott Gessler has shown how to make it easier to vote and tougher to cheat. He has improved election integrity by eliminating duplicate voter records, cross-checking records with other states, comparing voter rolls with federal immigration databases, improving access and transparency for election watchers, deploying official election observers, and actively investigating election problems.
At the same time, in 2012 voter turnout under Gessler jumped to third-best in the nation. Overall turnout increased, while turnout in other states declined. And military and overseas turnout skyrocketed by 65%. Scott Gessler’s pro-active management and election support provided the foundation for the best election in Colorado’s history.
Launching innovative, cutting-edge services
Under Scott Gessler, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office has become a national and world leader in nearly every service category, winning national and international awards. Gessler has infused the Secretary of State’s office with a customer service mentality. Just a few examples include:
- Business Intelligence Center – The Secretary of State’s office is putting the power of government data at the fingertips of every entrepreneur and business, by making government databases and user-friendly data software available on a single platform.
- Business Identity Theft Prevention – Colorado is the first state to give businesses the ability to password-protect their registration information, and Colorado is a national leader in combating business identity theft.
- Customer Relationship Management – The Secretary of State’s office is the first state agency to launch CRM software to improve telephone and in-person responses. The Secretary of State’s office beats world-class standards for call center efficiency. When our customers call, we pick up the phone!
- E-learning – The Secretary of State’s office is a national leader in providing e-learning courses, ranging from notary public training to non-profit board governance.
- Website accessibility improvements – Following a top-to-bottom review, Gessler revised web-site usability, based on user preferences. The web site serves nearly 10 million visitors a year – four times the amount of all of Colorado state government combined!
- Spanish-language services – The office has improved and consolidated Spanish language services and has partnered with the Denver Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to help all entrepreneurs get a business up and running quickly.
- Quarterly business and economic indicators – The Secretary of State publishes a free quarterly economic report, based on information drawn from business registrations and other sources. It is widely recognized as a reliable predictor of Colorado employment growth.
- Continuous improvement – Since his start as Secretary of State, the office has rolled out dozens of new products, and it is already working innovations that will continue to launch for the next two years.