O’Brien lost Senate seat, but will stay on in new role

    Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) today announced he has appointed former state Sen. Margaret O’Brien (R-Portage) as secretary of the Senate.

    “Margaret brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience as a former legislator,” said Shirkey. “Her roles as assistant president pro tempore in the Senate and associate speaker pro tempore in the House will be an asset in her executing the responsibilities of her new role. We are fortunate that Margaret is willing to take on the job of secretary of the Senate.”

    Margaret O’Brien

    O’Brien, who lost a re-election bid in November to now-Sen. Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo), previously served in the House. Before that, she served on the Portage City Council from 2003 to 2010.

    A graduate of Michigan State University’s James Madison College, O’Brien worked as a social worker for Catholic Charities and as a licensed Realtor before her time in the Legislature.  

    Secretary of the Senate is a sought-after post. Former Senate Majority Leader-elect Arlan Meekhof (R-Grand Haven) tapped one of his aides, Jeff Cobb, for the position after he took over the chamber’s leadership in 2014.

    Carol Viventi, a former Gov. John Engler administration attorney and a legislative assistant in his state House office during the early 1970s, was tapped as secretary of the Senate in 1994. Upon taking over as interim president at MSU, Engler named Viventi vice president and special counsel before she suffered a stroke last year.

    Bill Snow, a former Senate staffer, held the secretary of Senate prior to that beginning in 1987.  

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman reports on Southeast Michigan, education, civil rights and voting rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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