The Lead

‘It’s been an honor’: Al Schmidt to resign as Philadelphia commissioner to head good gov’t group

By: - November 30, 2021 12:11 pm

Beginning Jan. 3, 2022, Commissioner Al Schmidt will serve as the next president and chief executive for the Committee of Seventy. (Submitted photo)

After a decade in public office, the lone Republican on Philadelphia’s Board of Elections is resigning from his post to head the Committee of Seventy.

Current Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt will take over on Jan 3. as the good government group’s next president and chief executive, its board of directors said Tuesday. Founded in 1904, the Committee of Seventy says it works to combat corruption in Philadelphia and push for civic reform.

A Pennsylvania native, Schmidt is currently in his third term as a Philadelphia commissioner, and serves as the board’s vice-chairperson. 

First elected in 2011, Schmidt has advocated for a modernized voting process. After the 2020 presidential election, he staunchly defended the validity of the election — prompting personal attacks from former President Donald Trump and proponents of the “Big Lie.”

He reiterated his confidence in Philadelphia’s elections and thanked staff and colleagues on social media Tuesday morning.

“It’s been an honor to serve the citizens of Philadelphia for the past 10 years as city commissioner,” Schmidt tweeted.

He added: “I’d also like to thank the [Committee of Seventy] Board of Directors for the faith they’re placing in me as the organization’s next president and CEO. I look forward to continuing to serve Philadelphia and Pennsylvania in this new role and to keep fighting to protect our democratic institutions.”

Schmidt testified during an October U.S. Senate hearing to outline the threats made against him and his three children after the 2020 election. In January, he announced that he would not seek reelection to a fourth term but said the decision was not related to the threats he received from Trump and his supporters.

“Following the unprecedented 2020 presidential election, the voting process in Philadelphia would not have been the success that it was without the work of the Committee of Seventy,” Schmidt said in a statement. “I look forward to stepping into this new role and building on the organization’s 117-year history of delivering democracy.”

Before his political tenure, Schmidt worked as a senior analyst at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, dubbed the “investigative arm” of Congress, where he helped conduct government oversight to identify and eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse of spending.

Schmidt succeeds David Thornburgh, who has served as president and CEO since 2014. In July, the Committee of Seventy announced that Thornburgh, the son of former Gov. Dick Thornburgh, would step down from his post to become a senior adviser focusing on redistricting efforts, and opening Pennsylvania primary elections to independent voters.

“Al has dedicated his career to promoting government transparency, eliminating fraud and corruption, encouraging voter engagement, and ensuring safe and fair elections for all people,” Eric Kraeutler, a Committee of Seventy board member, and the chair of the group’s search committee, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Al to promote democracy and to realize the Seventy’s vision for a better Philadelphia.”

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