Secretary of State of Puerto Rico
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The Secretary of State of Puerto Rico (also known as the Lieutenant Governor of Puerto Rico) leads all efforts that promote the cultural, political, and economical relations between Puerto Rico and foreign countries, and other jurisdictions of the United States. The post was created by Article IV of the Constitution of Puerto Rico which merely establishes that the secretary serves as acting governor when the Governor of Puerto Rico is unable to perform his duties—a post similar to that of a lieutenant governor in U.S. politics. However, in recent times, the secretary has evolved into a position similar to that of a foreign minister. The position of secretary of state is appointed by the governor with advice and consent from both the Senate and House of Representatives.
Appointment and gubernatorial succession
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The Secretary of State is first in line to exercise the role of acting governor when the Governor of Puerto Rico is temporarily unavailable, whether because of being away from Puerto Rico or due to another temporary incapacity. The secretary of state is the only official who can automatically become governor if the elected governor is permanently incapable of remaining in office due to death, resignation, or conviction as part of an impeachment process. Prior to the adoption of the local constitution, the Foraker Act of 1900 and the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917 provided for the position of executive secretary, who carried out the roles assigned to contemporary secretaries of state.
Since 1952, secretaries of state have been appointed by the governor, subject to the advice and consent of both the Senate of Puerto Rico and the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico. A secretary of state appointed by the governor while the legislative assembly is in recess may take office as a recess appointment and serve until the nomination is rejected by any of the legislative chambers or the next legislative regular session ends, whichever happens first.
Additional delegated duties
Secretaries of State of the United States Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, in addition to heading the State Department, one of the smallest central government agencies, and exercising the role as the territory's lieutenant governor, are usually assigned additional functions by the governor. For example, Gov. Luis Muñoz Marín had Secretary of State Roberto Sánchez Vilella, a civil engineer, serve simultaneously as Secretary of Public Works. Gov. Pedro Rosselló had Secretary of State Norma Burgos serve for several years as chair of the Puerto Rico Planning Board. Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá's second secretary of state, Fernando Bonilla, also served as executive director of the Puerto Rico Ports Authority. However, perhaps no other secretary of state has been assigned more tasks than immediate past Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock, who served as chair of the incoming Fortuño administration's Incoming Committee on Government Transition, coordinated the government's digital TV transition work group, headed the state government's Census 2010 team, chaired the government's 2010 Central and Caribbean Games Coordinating Committee, was tasked with making the final awatds of Public-Private Partnership contracts, chaired the Government Reorganization Committee and chaired the Outgoing Transition Committee, among other assignments delegated by Gov. Luis Fortuño. So far, Governor Alejandro García Padilla has put current secretary Bernier in charge of evaluating the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport Public-Private Partnership contract and overseeing social agencies, such as the Health, Family Services, Education and Sports and Recreation departments.
The Secretary of State of Puerto Rico is a member of the National Association of Secretaries of State, as well as the National Lieutenant Governors Association in his dual role as head of Puerto Rico's Department of State, as well as the islands' lieutenant governor.
Traditionally, gubernatorial inaugural ceremonies are initiated by the outgoing administration's Secretary of State who, prior to the ceremonial swearing-in of the new Governor, will turn over the master of ceremonies role to the Secretary of State-designate, symbolizing the orderly transition from one administration to another.
Secretaries of State of Puerto Rico, once confirmed by both houses of the Legislature, do not serve for a fixed term but at the pleasure of the Governor. Over 62 years, the U.S. territory has had 22 men and women serve in that position, for an average 2.7 years in service. However, if the 12-year term of the first Secretary, Gov. Muñoz-Marín's only one is not taken into account, the average length of Sec. Sánchez-Vilella's successors falls to only 1.8 years.
After Sánchez-Vilella's 12 years in office, Puerto Rico's second-longest serving Secretary of State was Norma Burgos under Gov. Pedro Rosselló, with Gov. Luis Ferré's sole appointee, Sec. Chardón, and Gov. Luis Fortuño's sole appointee, Sec. McClintock, tying for third longest serving.
List of secretaries
- 1952–1964: Roberto Sánchez Vilella
- 1965–1966: Carlos J. Lastra
- 1966–1969: Guillermo Irizarry
- 1969–1973: Carlos Fernando Chardón
- 1973–1974: Victor M. Pons
- 1975–1977: Juan A. Albors
- 1977–1979: Reinaldo Paniagua Diez
- 1979–1981: Pedro R. Vazquez
- 1981–1985: Carlos Quiros
- 1985–1988: Héctor Luis Acevedo
- 1988–1988: Alfonso Lopez Char
- 1988–1990: Sila M. Calderon
- 1990–1992: Antonio J. Colorado
- 1992–1992: Salvador M. Padilla Escabi
- 1993–1995: Baltasar Corrada del Rio
- 1995–1999: Norma Burgos
- 1999–2001: Angel Morey
- 2001–2003: Ferdinand Mercado
- 2004–2004: Jose Izquierdo Encarnacion
- 2005–2009: Fernando J. Bonilla
- 2009–2013: Kenneth D. McClintock
- 2013–2015: David Bernier
- www.estado.gobierno.pr - official site (Spanish)