Va. Lottery’s Gee tapped as next secretary of commonwealth
Kay Coles James resigns from post
Secretary of the Commonwealth Kay Coles James has resigned from her post, and Virginia Lottery Executive Director Kelly Gee has been appointed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin as her successor starting Friday, the governor’s office announced Tuesday.
James, a native of Portsmouth and a Hampton University alum, served as president of conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, as well as director of the Office of Personnel Management under former President George W. Bush and as Virginia secretary of health under former Gov. George Allen. She will be taking a leadership role as a senior adviser to Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia political action committee.
Gee was named acting head of the state lottery in January 2022, and the following June, she was made its permanent leader. She joined the lottery in 2018, serving as manager of government relations, and spent a decade before that working in state politics, including as deputy chief of staff for then-Speaker of the House Kirk Cox.
The governor’s office will name an interim lottery director shortly. In addition to managing lottery ticket sales, the agency has oversight for the state’s new casino industry.
The secretary of the commonwealth’s most high profile duty is restoring rights to convicted felons after they have served their terms in prison, but the secretary’s office also facilitates board and commission appointments for the governor, processes and reviews pardon requests, manages extradition requests and assists constituents’ communication with the governor, among other duties.
During Youngkin’s tenure, the secretary of the commonwealth’s office stopped automatically restoring nonviolent felons’ voting rights, after predecessor Gov. Bob McDonnell streamlined the process. As a result, the number of people whose rights were restored has dropped significantly, according to multiple news reports.
James’ career in public service started as a member of Fairfax County’s school board, and she then progressed to the Virginia Board of Education. Under President George H.W. Bush, she was associate director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. James also started the Gloucester Institute, which offers leadership training to Black college students, and was co-chair of Youngkin’s transition team. According to the governor’s office, she will serve on James Madison University’s board of visitors.
Gee is a graduate of William & Mary and has a master’s in political science from Virginia Tech.