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2021 March Fong Eu Achievement Award Recipient: Lori Hamm

When Lori Hamm she first applied for a job at the Montana Secretary of State’s office nearly 17 years ago, she never imagined it would grow into a career helping Notaries not just in Montana, but across the country. But that's exactly what happened.

When she started working for the state, the only educational material available for Notaries was a 2-page document with sparse information about notarizing. Hamm decided to change that. She created a new handbook to help Montana Notaries understand and perform their duties better.

That was just the start. She proceeded to work tirelessly to improve the standards of professionalism for Notaries across the board. That included helping the Secretary of State introduce legislation mandating Notary education and a journal requirement. She has personally taught Notary training classes across her state, launched in-state conferences where Notaries can share knowledge and network, and has worked with Notary officials from other states to help improve their laws, educational resources and regulations for the Notaries they serve.

For her tireless efforts to educate, train and support Notaries in performing their duties according to the highest standards of ethics and professionalism, Lori Hamm, Notary Program Administrator for the Montana Secretary of State's office, has been selected as the 2021 recipient of the March Fong Eu Achievement Award.

Established in 1979 in honor of the late California Secretary of State March Fong Eu, the award is given annually to an individual who strives to improve standards, professionalism and effectiveness of the Notary Public office in the United States.

"Lori Hamm is a Notary policy powerhouse," said Bill Anderson, NNA's Vice President of Government Affairs. "Her body of work over 15 years — from her legislative achievements, her vision of making Montana a model for Notary education, and her standing among her peers at the National Association of Secretaries of State — is nothing short of extraordinary."

Hamm's career as a Notary official began 17 years ago, when she and her husband moved back to her native Montana from Oregon after her husband's retirement. While looking for work, she saw an advertisement for a data entry job at the Montana Secretary of State's office and applied, thinking that once she and her husband were settled, she'd move on. Little did she know it would turn into a lifelong career.

"I knew very little or nothing about Notaries initially," Hamm said, "and I had lots of questions." While she worked on entering Notary information as part of her data entry duties, Hamm noticed a lot of Notaries were asking for information and classes to help them perform their duties, and official resources were scanty and unreliable.

With the encouragement of the Chief Legal Counsel, Hamm started working on compiling better resources for Montana Notaries. She read her state's Notary statutes and regulations, reached out to professional Notary associations for information, and published a new, more comprehensive state handbook for Notaries. Along the way, she realized that not only was she enjoying the work, but that Notaries were performing an important service that deserved as much support as she could provide them.

March Fong Eu Achievement Award Recipient Lori Hamm "The role of the Notary is so important in personal and business affairs," she said. "I felt that people didn't understand that. It became my mission to help people understand notarization needs to be done right. It captured my interest and imagination."

In the years that followed, Hamm continued to develop and provide more support and resources to help Montana Notaries. Seeing how important proper training is for Notaries, she worked on behalf of the Secretary of State's office for ten years to successfully pass legislation mandating Notary education for new and renewing commission applicants. Hamm took charge of training Montana Notaries personally, travelling throughout the state to teach live classes for new and experienced commission holders so they could perform their duties properly.

In 2012, she launched the first of a series of Montana Notary Public Conferences which have been attended by Notaries from all over the state interested in training in state laws and best practices. She also was instrumental in developing laws and guidelines for remote notarization in Montana to ensure that this new technology could be used safely and securely by Notaries and document signers.

Hamm also collaborated with Notary officials in many other states. As a member of the Notary Public Administrators Section of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), Hamm has shared successful education and training strategies, and worked tirelessly to improve Notary practices throughout the country, earning the respect of fellow Notary officials and legal experts.

"In all of its entirety, the Notary industry does not have a more thoughtful, dedicated and determined member than Lori Hamm," said Georgia Notary official Mike Smith, who serves as President of NASS' Notary Public Administrators Section. "Lori always puts others first. She has been instrumental in effecting positive change in not only the state of Montana, but across the United States."

Notary Lori Hamm "I have known and worked with Lori for many years. We have consulted together and lectured together on numerous Notary projects. She is a walking encyclopedia about notarial practice," said Michael Closen, attorney and leading Notary law scholar. "She is genuinely concerned about, and diligently advocates for, sound notarial services being performed — from the point of view of both Notaries themselves and the public served by notarizations."

Hamm said she's simply grateful that she has a job that she loves, helping Notaries — but adds that she is eager to get back to teaching Notaries live once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

"Over the years, I've developed in ways I've never done before, and met the greatest people," she says. "I've been incredibly lucky — the Notary world may be small, but it's got awesome people in it."

David Thun is the Assistant Managing Editor at the National Notary Association.

1 Comment

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Ronnie Mickle

13 Jul 2021

Everyone at Notary Stars sends you the biggest Congratulations! And thank you for all you have contributed to our National community from your State. We watched your video speech today and also love that you are so sweet and humble about your achievements. It just shows the world you deserve to be honored!

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