Schmidt, Arkoosh, Browne officially take office as department secretaries

Though they didn’t receive a confirmation vote from the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate, three of Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s cabinet nominees became official administration secretaries on Thursday.

Under the state Constitution, Al Schmidt, Val Arkoosh, and Pat Browne became secretaries of the Department of State, Department of Human Services, and Department of Revenue, respectively.

The governor appoints secretaries, who serve as “acting” officials until confirmed by a two-thirds majority vote in the upper chamber. If the Senate fails to vote on a nominee after the 25th legislative day of consideration, the nominee becomes official even without a vote.

Department of State

Schmidt is a former Philadelphia city commissioner who gained national attention and faced death threats after rejecting then-President Donald Trump’s bogus election fraud claims in 2020.

He was the sole Republican on the Philadelphia Board of Elections for 10 years, serving as vice chairperson. 

After the 2020 election, Schmidt testified before Congressional committees, including the U.S. House committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Earlier this year, Schmidt received the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Joe Biden for his efforts to combat false claims and ensure safe and secure elections.

Schmidt later resigned as a Philadelphia commissioner to lead the Committee of Seventy, a Philadelphia-based good government group, before being tapped by Shapiro to oversee the Department of State in January.

“I’m grateful to Gov. Shapiro for nominating me,” Schmidt said. “Throughout my career, I’ve worked almost exclusively in nonpartisan and bipartisan environments to make government more efficient and effective in the delivery of public services, and I will continue that focus at the Department of State.”

The Republican-led Senate State Government Committee hosted two hearings as part of Schmidt’s confirmation process and voted last week to advance his nomination. Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, was the only lawmaker to oppose Schmidt’s appointment. Mastriano, a Trump ally who lost the governor’s race to Shapiro, helped promote election disinformation after the 2020 election. 

Department of Human Services

Before serving as a Montgomery County commissioner, Arkoosh worked as an obstetric anesthesiologist. She said her medical experience taught her how someone’s environment and poverty affect their health and well-being.

She was a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in 2022 but later dropped out of the race.

“Having the privilege to serve our commonwealth as secretary of human services is an opportunity to draw upon my experiences at each stage of my career, and I am honored to lead an agency whose work I am so passionate about,” Arkoosh said. “I am incredibly grateful to Gov. Shapiro for his trust, and I promise to use this work and opportunity to fight for and advance the health, well-being, economic self-sufficiency, and safety of all Pennsylvanians.”

Department of Revenue

Browne served in the Pennsylvania General Assembly — both the House of Representatives and the Senate — for 28 years before being nominated as revenue secretary by Shapiro. He lost a re-election bid in 2022.

He led the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is key during budget negotiations and financial decisions. He also has experience as an attorney and certified public accountant.

“We strive to administer the commonwealth’s tax laws and revenue programs as fairly and efficiently as possible,” Browne said. “We recognize the importance of this work and the key role that we play in the governor’s vision of offering freedom and opportunity for the people of Pennsylvania.”

Originally published at,by Marley Parish

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