Every Day In Arizona Is Special — Thanks To State’s Proclamations Office

Published: Thursday, November 3, 2016 - 4:32pm
Updated: Thursday, November 3, 2016 - 4:47pm
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(Photo by Annika Cline - KJZZ)
This proclamation designated March as Women's History Month.
(Photo by Annika Cline - KJZZ)
Many early proclamations were made on Thanksgiving and highlighted what Arizona had to be grateful for that year.

It’s Adoption Month.

It’s also Arizona Leafy Greens Month, and Careers in Construction Sciences Month.

These aren’t randomly declared - there’s actually a process of proclaiming special months, weeks and days in Arizona. And there’s an office over at the state capitol where those proclamations are made.

The seal looks very official on what, at first sight, is just a piece of paper — a very fancy piece of paper labeling a certain day, week or month.

For instance, there’s Autism Awareness Month and Building Safety Month.

Some are more serious, like Bullying Prevention Month.

Some are fun, like Arizona Beer Week.

And some are very specific, like Diaper Need Awareness Week.

Laddie Shane, deputy director of constituent affairs for the governor, is involved in approving all of them. Basically, in this office, every day is “proclamation day.” They churn out hundreds of these each year.

“And we put together the report every week that the governor does see and he can go through and edit and revise and do suggestions with the policy team,” Shane said.

Then it becomes official, stamped with that golden seal and signed by the governor. Like a recent one that declared October Cyber Security Awareness Month, a sign of the tech-heavy world we live in today. But proclamations go way back.

“The process of proclaiming might be around since statehood,” Shane said.

I, John N. Goodwin, having been appointed by the President of the United States …

Hanging on the wall in the Archives and History Building is the state’s first proclamation, which dates back to 1863. 

... I shall this day proceed to organize said government ...

The first proclamation in Arizona was about the creation of Arizona, as a territory. 

“What they would do is take that proclamation that they had all written their names on and they would hand them out as they went through the state. If they came to a place where there were a group of people, they would get one so they would know,” said Melanie Sturgeon, director of the state archives. 

The first proclamation was basically a newsletter.  

In the early years of the state, proclamations had nothing to do with declaring a certain day or month as special. Instead, they were a way for the governor to outline what he wanted to focus on during that legislative session. 

“Here’s another one from World War II,” Sturgeon said, pulling a document out of a manila folder. It covered items of concern from firearm sales to soldiers coming back.

These early proclamations all originated in the Governor’s Office. But it’s a little different now.

“People can go now to the governor and say ‘I would like a proclamation about this or that.’ And so there are a lot more of them than they used to have,” Sturgeon said. 

In fact, most proclamations now come from residents. They fill out a form online and it goes to the capitol for review. Barby Ingle has done this many times.

“I think our first one that we requested was 2009,” Ingle said.

Ingle is president of the International Pain Foundation and an Arizona resident. She’s behind Chronic Pain Awareness Month, Lupus Awareness Month, and a couple others. And she sees the proclamations process as sort of a side door to the legislature.

“When the governor of the state signs off on it, it helps the other legislators see that this is an important issue,” Ingle said.

And that thin piece of paper carries weight elsewhere, too.

“There have been some patients that were unable to get treatment for their disease,” Ingle said. “And in their appeal to the insurance company they included that the state governor had signed off on a proclamation.”

In some cases it made a difference. Her one critique of the process is this: 

“In the beginning we didn’t realize we had to apply every single year. We thought, oh my goodness we got this proclamation, it’s forever.”

It’s not. But it’s worth it to Ingle to send in applications every year, hoping they make it through Shane’s office, onto the governor’s desk, and back into her hands again, stamped and ready to be presented to whoever doesn’t know what month it is.

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