Protocol Tuesday: How to List a Former Elected Official on an Invitation
by Robert Hickey
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Robert Hickey, Deputy Director of The Protocol School of Washington discusses listing an elected official on an invitation.

Dear Mr. Hickey,
My group wants to honor and thank a former California State Senator who served our district with distinction in both the State Assembly and State Senate. She served in the legislature until December 2008. She was recently appointed to a paid position on a State Board, but the Legislature and Governor are dismantling board due to California's budget crisis.

We are wondering how to list her on the invitations.

We do not want to affront the current State Senator, who will receive an invitation and likely attend. They are are good friends of each other, and both are good friends of some of the leaders of our organization. In casual conversation many of us just use first names. Invitations will also be sent to many who haven't been that close to the former Senator, but almost everyone in our area considers the former senator as the best to have ever served in the position. Here's the text:

You are cordially invited to Celebrate the 10th Anniversary of (group's name) and to Honor... (Here is where we need help). Please tell us what won't work, what will do, and what you consider best:

  1. Tina Jonas Senator
  2. Tina Jonas Former Senator
  3. Tina Jonas Senator
  4. Tina Jonas, retired
  5. Honorable Senator Tina Jonas
  6. Our Senator Tina Jonas
  7. Our Dear Former Senator Tina Jonas

Thanks in advance for your help.

-- Mike Mitchell in Los Angeles

Dear Mr. Mitchell,

Refer to your guest of honor on the invitation as:

The Honorable Tina Jonas

Once an 'Honorable' always an 'Honorable'. A guest of honor may or may not be identified as to who they are ... but it sounds like people getting this invitation will know who Tina Jonas is. But, if you feel obliged to identify her you would write something like:

State Senator from California's 41st District, 1996-2008

In conversation (orally) she can be addressed as Senator Jonas if that's her preference, which is not inconsiderate of the current State Senator. Positions of which there is only one at a time DON'T continue to use their honorific (governor, speaker, mayor) but positions where many have the same title at the same time (admiral, senator, professor) DO continue. Only oddity about State Senators is that they are not addressed as Senator in the presence of a United States Senator because it is thought to be confusing. So in a room with a current U.S. Senator, she would be State Senator Jonas or even Ms. Jonas.

--Robert Hickey

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