Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge Laurel M. Lee on Monday to serve as Secretary of State and Florida’s top election official.
The announcement follows last week’s resignation by Michael Ertel, the former Seminole County election supervisor who was forced to step down after photos from a 2005 Halloween party surfaced showing him dressed up as a Hurricane Katrina victim. His face was painted black. Ertel stepped down Thursday just hours after the Governor’s Office was shown the photos by the Tallahassee Democrat.
Lee was appointed to the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit by Governor Rick Scott in 2013 and was reelected. In appointing Lee, DeSantis pointed to her extensive judicial and legal experience as reasons for his selection of her to the position.
“It is clear to me that Judge Lee’s background and experience make her an excellent choice to serve as Secretary of State for Florida,” said DeSantis. “She is ready to handle the important elections administration duties and cultural responsibilities accorded to this position with a steady hand and good judgement.”
Before becoming a judge, she served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Middle Distric of Florida. Prior to that, Judge Lee worked as an Assistant Federal Public Defender in the Middle District Court of Florida.
“I am humbled to serve the people of Florida as Secretary of State, an important position with many responsibilities,” said Lee. “I thank Governor DeSantis for allowing me the privilege to continue my public service in this new capacity.”
In addition to her career in law, Lee is also active in her community serving on the board of a local charter school, well as the board for the Emergency Care Help Organization of Brandon. She is also a member of the Junior League of Tampa.
Lee is married to state Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa.