Ater begins work in state office

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 13, 2001

Almost a decade after he left the Louisiana Legislature to tend to business back home, Al Ater has once again joined the ranks of state government – as Secretary of State Fox McKeithen’s right hand man.

Ater, 47, started work Tuesday as Louisiana’s first assistant secretary of state. He has been friends with McKeithen for several years, ever since the two served together in the Legislature, where Ater served from 1984 to 1992.

&uot;And when I&160;didn’t run again for the Legislature in 1992, he wanted me to join the Secretary of State’s Office, but I&160;said, ‘Thanks but no thanks,’&uot; said Ater, a Waterproof resident. &uot;One of the reasons I&160;didn’t run again was to spend more time with my family – my children were 4 and 2 then.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

But when First Assistant Secretary of State Wayne Watts quit this spring due to health problems, McKeithen once again asked Ater to join his office – and Ater accepted.

&uot;I&160;see it as a challenge, and hopefully I can make some positive contributions,&uot; Ater said. &uot;It’s a well-run office, and I’m glad to be a part of it.&uot;

As second-in-command at the Secretary of State’s Office, Ater will conduct any duties delegated to him by McKeithen, and will be largely responsible for the office’s day-to-day activities and administrative duties.

Ater has been busy enough this week just moving into his office, meeting staff members and familiarizing himself with the office’s budget.

&uot;I’m just in a learning process now,&uot; Ater said.

But his next priority will be to help oversee the merger of the Secretary of State’s Office with the Department of Elections and Registration, a merger the Legislature approved earlier this year.

The departments will not be completely merged until 2004, but a plan for the merger must be finished in six months.

Ater said he will not be directly responsible for operation of Louisiana’s state-run museums, which will soon include Ferriday’s planned Louisiana Delta Music Museum.

&uot;Unless Mr. McKeithen asks me to,&uot; Ater said.

For now, Ater is commuting to Baton Rouge each day, &uot;but getting home at 9:30 or 10 at night, and getting up at 5:30 or 6 to do it all over again will be old after a while.&uot;

Ater said he will eventually rent an apartment in Baton Rouge to live in during the week, &uot;but Waterproof will still be home.&uot;

And as far as running his 4,000-acre cotton and corn farm near Waterproof is concerned, &uot;I’m blessed with some good employees, and I’ll just have to rely on them.&uot;