Secretary of State Benson goes ‘undercover boss’

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is working to visit all 131 SOS branch locations during her first 100 days in office, and she’s making the stops a surprise.

Benson has worn head scarves or put her hair in a pony-tail to make herself less recognizable, she told reporters Friday at WKAR-TV. “Oh yeah, undercover boss," Benson said.

The Detroit Democrat had visited 25 branch locations through Friday morning and planned five other stops later that day. Benson said she has been “encouraged by how hard our employees work every day” but is also noting ways to improve customer service.

“Sometimes I go up to someone and just ask a question, and they’ll say, ‘Wait your turn’ or something like that. And I’ll say, “Hi, I’m Jocelyn.’ It’s been fun, but I’m learning a lot.”

Benson has experience undercover. As a 19-year-old, she went undercover working for the Southern Poverty Law Center to investigate hate groups and hate crimes in the South.

“I wanted to be a part of fighting back against efforts to use violence to attack people’s identity and who they are," she said, "and also to work for an organization that has been at the forefront of civil rights since its inception in the ‘60s.”

Whitmer's new political handle 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has a new Twitter account, which she launched Monday with an invitation for “all of the 2020 presidential candidates to come to Michigan.”

The East Lansing Democrat tagged early primary contenders like Sens. Kristen Gillibrand of New York and Kamala Harris of California, but she did not extend the invitation to Republican President Donald Trump, who is poised to seek re-election and has called Michigan a key state.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

“We felt it was important to create a separate account for personal and political use going forward,” Whitmer communications director Zack Pohl said. “This is fairly common among governors.”

Twitter temporarily suspended Whitmer's new account Monday after some users reported it as a possible fake because it had not yet been verified by the company, Pohl said.

Back up and running, the new account is another indication Whitmer will be vocal during the 2020 election cycle even though she has no plans to join a presidential ticket herself.

"I am less than 60 days on the job, and my sole focus is ensuring that we pass a budget that fixes the damn roads and closes the skills gap in Michigan," Whitmer told The Detroit News on Sunday. "I am not interested in being on a national ticket at this juncture."