By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, March 11, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed an executive order creating the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs (GOMA).
Governor Bentley said, “Alabama has a unique history in promoting civil rights for minorities, and the courage and boldness of our citizens is a testament to the principles on which our state and country were founded. The newly created Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs will be a great resource and a new perspective on addressing minority and women’s issues. My goal is to make Alabama stronger, and minorities and women are an important component of the Great State 2019 Plan.”
Gov. Bentley announced that he appointed of Nichelle Nix as the inaugural Director of GOMA. Nix was recently an attorney in the Governmental and Regulatory Affairs Division at Maynard, Cooper & Gale, P.C., in Birmingham.
Director Nix said, “I am honored to join the Governor’s Office and help support Governor Bentley’s efforts to create jobs, improve education and increase quality of life opportunities. The opportunities and well-being of minorities and women will be my primary focus. I look forward to building broad coalitions to make Alabama a better state for everyone.”
Nix is a native of Mobile. Mrs. Nix has a Political Science degree from Spelman College in Atlanta, a Master’s of Public Health degree from Emory University, and a law degree from the University of Alabama. She previously served as Legislative Counsel to US Representative Artur Davis (D) in Washington, D.C., a Fellow at the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice in Montgomery, and Executive Director of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America in Mobile.
Alabama Senate Minority Leader Quinton T. Ross Jr. (D-Montgomery) said in a statement, “I would like to commend Gov. Robert Bentley on keeping his commitment and recognizing the need for an office devoted solely to the needs of minorities. Hopefully, with the creation of the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs, problems which disproportionately affect people of color will be lessened and eventually eliminated throughout the state.”
Mrs. Nix will serve as a liaison between minority communities and the Governor. Specific duties of the GOMA will include: community outreach throughout the state to assess and address issues facing women and minorities; encouraging public debate on issues affecting Alabama minority populations, including open access to public services and fair and equitable implementation of public policy; assessing efforts by state agencies to assist women and minorities, promoting self-sufficiency through education and training; collaborating with business and industry representatives, the Alabama Workforce Council, higher education stakeholders and the Alabama Small Business Commission to facilitate identification of minority and women-owned businesses and to provide recommendations on how to better foster economic development opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses; advising the Governor concerning the coordination and administration of state programs serving minority populations; monitoring existing legislation and programs designed to meet the needs of minorities; and researching and analyzing all areas affecting the quality of life of minorities.
The state has come under criticism during Governor Bentley’s two terms by advocates for minorities over: the closing of rural drivers offices (which appeared by some to target majority minority counties in the Black Belt), the state’s photo ID requirement for voting, HB56 (Alabama’s toughest-in-the-nation-anti-illegal-alien law), and Bentley’s decision not to expand Medicaid.
By Brandon Moseley