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White set to become longest-serving secretary of state

SPRINGFIELD — Secretary of State Jesse White meant what he said 15 years ago when he told voters he wouldn’t use his office as a launching pad to something else.

On Friday, the Chicago Democrat will become the longest-serving secretary of state in Illinois, surpassing the 15-year record of Pope County Republican James A. Rose, who was inaugurated on Jan. 11, 1897, and served nearly four terms.

Since then, the role of the secretary of state has changed, taking on additional responsibilities like issuing driver’s licenses and plates, registering businesses and lobbyists, maintaining an organ donor registry and auditing automobile dealerships.

“I am proud to have had the privilege and honor of serving the people of Illinois for the last 15 years,” White said in a prepared statement. “I pledged I would not use this office as a stepping stone to a higher office, and I have honored that commitment.”

White, 79, who is on the Nov. 4 ballot, succeeded Republican George Ryan, who went on to become the state’s governor from 1999 to 2003 and later went to prison after being convicted of federal racketeering, bribery, extortion and other related corruption charges.