By Holly South
The 2020 legislative session marks a first for eight legislative staffers and one former senator as their chambers welcome them as chief clerk or secretary.
But while they may be new to the rostrum, all have spent years in public service. Meet the newest principal clerks and secretaries—five of whom are making history in their new roles.
California Assembly | Sue Parker, Chief Clerk and Parliamentarian
Sue Parker is the first woman to hold the position of chief clerk of the California Assembly. Before being sworn in on Jan. 9, Parker served as assistant chief clerk where she oversaw the operations of the Assembly Desk, increased the use of information technology to streamline bill processing, and updated the official chief clerk website to allow greater access to the legislative process. She began her career as a Senate fellow and has held many roles within the office of the chief clerk, including also serving as the first female reading clerk.
Colorado House | Robin Jones, Chief Clerk
After a quarter-century in the legislative branch’s bill drafting and research divisions, Jones joined the Office of the Chief Clerk in 2017 as assistant chief clerk. He’s been serving as chief clerk since August. His counterpart in the Senate, Cindi Markwell, actually hired him to work for the Office of Legislative Legal Services in 1991, which she says is “one of the best hiring decisions I ever made!
“Robin is thoughtful, hardworking, and always willing to take on any project,” Markwell continues. “He is an extraordinary person who I know is going to be an amazing chief clerk. He was meant to do this job. Congratulations, Robin!”
Iowa House | Meghan Nelson, Chief Clerk
Nelson worked for the state Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board before being hired as the assistant chief clerk of the Iowa House of Representatives in 2010. She served in that role until being appointed chief clerk in July 2019. With her first full session underway, “I look forward to serving in this role and the new challenges that are ahead,” she says.
Louisiana Senate | Yolanda Dixon, Secretary
Dixon is both the first woman and the first African American elected secretary of the Louisiana Senate. A 31-year veteran of the Senate, she has served as senior counsel and director of the Judiciary and Government Division and as senior attorney to the committees on Senate and Governmental Affairs, Local and Municipal Affairs, and Judiciary “A.” Dixon served as first assistant secretary of the Senate from 2004 through 2019 before being elected secretary in January. She’s also very involved in the American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries (ASLCS), serving for four years on the ASLCS Executive Committee, including as associate vice president, and has been a long-time member of the Mason’s Manual Commission. ASLCS awarded Dixon its Legislative Staff Achievement Award in 2018.
Louisiana House | Michelle Fontenot, Clerk of the House
Upon her election on Jan. 13, Fontenot stated, “To serve the Louisiana House as its clerk is an incredible honor, one that I couldn’t have imagined when I first joined the legislative staff 23 years ago.” Fontenot began work with the Louisiana House in 1997, serving as a staff attorney for the House Transportation Committee and the House Criminal Justice Committee. She spent a decade as division director for the Legal Division of the House before being selected to succeed Alfred W. Speer, and joins her counterpart in the Senate as the first female to hold the position.
Maryland Senate | Nicole Xander, Secretary
Xander also makes history—she is the first-ever female secretary of the Maryland Senate. She has served in the secretary’s office for 11 years, including the past several as assistant secretary. Prior to that she worked as a legislative aide to Senate President Mike Miller and in health care policy for Johns Hopkins University. In response to her selection, Xander noted, “We work for all 47 members of the Senate in ensuring that bills are processed and passed without partisan interference. I appreciate the opportunity and historic distinction.”
Mississippi Senate | Eugene “Buck” Clarke, Secretary
Clarke is a certified public accountant who served for 16 years in the Senate, with eight as chair of the Appropriations Committee. He was appointed by his former colleagues to be secretary of the Senate in January. A former Eagle Scout and scoutmaster, he’s a father of three and grandfather of four.
Utah Senate | Jennifer Storie, Secretary
Prior to being appointed secretary of the Utah Senate, Storie worked as the director of Administrative Services for the Lieutenant Governor’s office. She is “passionate about making a difference as a public servant and strives to bring forward movement and positive change to state government.” A proud mother of three, Storie enjoys repurposing old furniture and spending time with her husband and family.
Virginia House | Suzette Denslow, Clerk
Another “first,” Denslow is the first female House clerk in its 400-year history. She boasts a long career in public service, having served five Virginia governors as deputy chief of staff, legislative director or deputy secretary of education. She also spent time in local government as the chief of staff to the Richmond, Va., mayor. Denslow is adjunct faculty at Virginia Tech, where she teaches government budget and finance. Previously, she worked as a lobbyist on behalf of local governments as the deputy director of the Virginia Municipal League and the director of the Tennessee Municipal League.
Holly South is a policy specialist in NCSL's Legislative Staff Services Program.