Published: August 10, 2009
Hooper Penuel, Rutherford County elections administrator, will be designated as a Certified Elections/Registration Administrator (CERA), the highest professional achievement, in ceremonies conducted by the Election Center on Friday, Aug. 14at the Westin Gaslamp Central Hotel, San Diego, Ca.
CERA designation is achieved only through a multi-year course of study conducted by The Election Center’s Professional Education Program and completion of twelve core courses taught by the Master's in Public Administration faculty of Auburn University ranging from ethics, to voter registration and elections law, planning, communications, and voter participation, among others. The intent of the program is to professionalize the management of voter registration and elections administration in promoting and preserving public trust in the democratic process.
“This is the highest designation available to elections and voter registration officials,” said R. Doug Lewis, director of the Center. “Of more than 21,000 elections and voter registration officials throughout America, this graduating class of 52 professionals takes us to 529 election officials who have achieved the CERA status. This is an outstanding accomplishment.”
Penuel has served as the Rutherford County Administrator of Elections since August 2000, and is only the fifth Tennessee Election Official to ever obtain the CERA professional classification
“Rutherford County is indeed fortunate to have Hooper Penuel as one of the top designated professionals in America. Obtaining and maintaining CERA status means that he has committed to a career-long process of continuing education to improve the electoral process in Tennessee and the nation,” he stated.
“These truly are the people who make democracy possible,” Lewis said. “Mr. Penuel and other CERA professionals serve as the nation’s protectors of the democratic process. Because of them, Americans have a trust and public confidence in the election process. They have assurance that the system is fair, free, honest and accurate. In many parts of the world, their citizens have no faith in the form of democracy offered in their home countries. The importance of what Mr. Penuel is doing for Rutherford County and Tennessee is incredible but rarely noticed … unless something goes wrong.”
“This is one of the most challenging education programs I have ever participated in,” said Penuel, who is certified by the State of Tennessee to administer elections and by the University of Missouri in Public Administration. “We covered the law, and ethical considerations in how to better serve the public. We also became more aware of how important it is to nurture and care for the democratic process.
“It is my great honor to assure that the public’s will is accurately reflected in our elections,” Penuel said. “I see my role to dignify all potential voters and to remove as many barriers as possible to participation in the democratic process. Our office cannot be responsible for how many actually turn out for each election, but we can certainly be sure that they have the opportunity to vote and have their votes counted accurately.”
The Professional Education Program is sponsored by The Election Center, a nonprofit association of voter registrars and elections administrators throughout America. Its membership is comprised of township, city, county and state elections officials. The Center’s primary purpose is education for local and state voter registrars and elections officials to promote and improve the democratic process.
Professional Education Program participants receive continuing education credit from Auburn University as well as professional training credits from The Election Center.
The Professional Education Program was recognized in 1996 as the top continuing education program in America by the National University Continuing Education Association.
“Normally most Americans don't even know the election officials exist in their community and that they work constantly to protect the democratic process for its citizens," Lewis said. "Due to Election 2000, we now know just how important and complicated elections can be. In my opinion, the elections officials deserve the highest recognition that a community can give. If they don't do their job well, then citizens have no faith in the democratic process itself. Without faith in the process, it is almost impossible to believe in government itself – and that is a very large responsibility.”
A native of Wilson County (Greenvale), Tennessee, Penuel has lived in Rutherford County since childhood. He is a graduate of Central High School (class of ’58), attended MTSC, University of Tennessee at Nashville, obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Cumberland University in Lebanon and is a graduate of the Air War College.
Penuel served as the first Public Information Officer for the Tennessee Department of Veteran Affairs and later retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel from the United States Air Force after 28 years of military service. Penuel served as the Chief Spokesman for the Adjutant General, Tennessee National Guard, Military Department of Tennessee during “operation Desert Shield and Storm” when Tennessee deployed more than 4,700 members of the Tennessee National Guard to various theaters of operation around the globe.
Penuel is married to Sara Willene (Hanberry) Penuel. They live in the Lascassas community. They have three daughters and three grandchildren, Tylor 11, Trevor 7, and Caitlyn Rose, 4.