County elections administrator office established
by PHILLIP WILLIAMS
Sep 06, 2015 | 6492 views | 6 6 comments | 45 45 recommendations | email to a friend | print


Upshur County Commissioners Court voted 3-1 Monday to establish the new office of county elections administrator, a move which may result in closing the Gladewater branch of the county tax assessor-collector’s office.

The court approved creating the EA office after hearing comments from several members of the public, most of whom expressed support for County Clerk Terri Ross’ Aug. 14 proposal to establish the post, thus removing responsibility for elections from her office.

She did not attend Monday’s meeting since she was at a school on elections.

At the Aug. 14 court meeting where Ross broached the proposal, which the court first considered at least seven years ago, county Tax Assessor-Collector Sherron Laminack said establishing the EA office would result in her closing the Gladewater branch if an employee in her office went to work in the new EA office.

The tax assessor’s office not only collects taxes, but registers vehicles and voters. Closing its Gladewater substation would not result in closing Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Rhonda Welch’s office in that city.

Pct. 3 Commissioner Frank Berka was the only court member to vote against creating the office, which will have a $40,000 salary. He has fought for retaining the Gladewater substation, which is in his precinct.

Berka also objected during Monday’s meeting that the county had no reserves, needed to build them, and needed to spend money on election equipment.

Pct. 4 Commissioner Mike Spencer made the motion to approve the position after initially indicating he opposed doing so. Commissioners Paula Gentry and Don Gross voted for it.

Under the motion, the $24,000, which is in the county elections budget, will be supplemented with $16,000 from the general fund to pay the EA salary. Meantime, the motion also provided for removing Deputy Voter Registrar Pam Dean (who mans the Gladewater office) and her salary of about $24,000 away from the tax office, and moving it to the EA office.

Dean’s husband, Haskell Dean, is running against Berka for the Republican nomination for commissioner in 2016.

During a break in Monday’s lengthy meeting, Spencer said Hart Intercivic would charge the county $15,000 to $16,000 to handle election machinery, which can now be done in-house instead. He said he “wasn’t against an EA,” but the arrangement some advocates were talking about would have cost $50,000 and that he opposed spending more than $40,000.

Spencer said he hoped the county could recoup the costs of the new position by contracting with other taxing entities to hold their elections.

His comments before he made his motion had seemed so negative about having an EA that County Judge Dean Fowler told the court “(I) thought I was going to have to break the tie (vote.) Caught me off-guard.”

Fowler recently said that if forced to choose between keeping the Gladewater branch open and approving the EA, he would not support the new post, but that he thought the budget could support both. During a break in Monday’s meeting, he said he hoped the substation will stay open, but that it is strictly up to Laminack.

Gilmer attorney Ronnica Ridgeway, whose mother, Upshur County Republican Party Chairman Cynthia Ridgeway, also spoke in favor of having an EA, told the court on Monday that Chapter 19 of the Texas Election Code allows governmental reimbursement to the county for voter registration and its costs.

County Auditor Brandy Lee said the county is already receiving such funding. Ronnica Ridgeway then said, “Those funds could help defray “the costs of an EA and election equipment needed to avoid an election catastrophe.”

She pointed out the county’s equipment is similar in age to equipment in Wood County, which had broken down.

Ronnica Ridgeway also said an EA would ease a “great deal of stress” and “community concerns,” and that the county clerk’s office contracting with Hart Intercivic to program election machinery means the county saves no money by not having an EA to do so.

Her mother said the county clerk’s office has one deputy with “exceptional” election expertise (Greg Dodson) and that the county might face a rise in election costs when he leaves. Cynthia Ridgeway also said an EA must hold party primary elections if asked, while a county clerk need not.

Brenda Evans, representing the conservative group East Texans for Liberty, presented a letter from that group protesting the proposal for an election administrator.

The letter, read aloud by Fowler, argued the idea had “more negatives” than positives inasmuch as there was no “compelling reason” to expand the county government with the additonal office.

It said creating the post could add $50,000 to the county budget. And in other counties, EA budgets “have increased substantially over time, and it is likely this one will as well,” the letter objected.
Comments
(6)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
anonymousvoter
|
September 11, 2015
This position of Elections Administrator has been one that the county chair has wanted for awhile. In fact, she had brought it to the commissioners before and one commissioner said a flat out no. Ironically, that commissioner is gone now.

While some of what Im writing may be suprising to those on the outside of the county government, its common knowledge of anyone who has worked with her.

This is the SAME republican county chair whose daughter, mentioned in this article, ran for County Judge and lost. I am assuming the first time the county chair asked for an EA she was too busy putting her daughters campaign signs up and working at her daughters "campaign headquarters" to argue much.

So let me get this straight....The county clerk of ONLY a little over 2 years decided that the county needed an elections administrator? Tell me exactly WHAT qualifies her to make this decision FOR the county when ONE, she has NEVER held a public office before being elected county clerk and certainly can't know much about a budget much less a COUNTY GOVERNMENTS BUDGET and TWO, how could she POSSIBLY KNOW that an elections admin was needed when she hasn't even been involved in any MAJOR elections since being elected??? Its EASY to make recommendations and spend money when its NOT YOUR MONEY being spent. Its a proven fact that there are counties ALL around Texas who don't have an EA and they do great!

It also says a WHOLE lot about the county and their decision making skills if ONLY one person (the GREG DODSON fellow) who knows the In's and Out's of elections. Why would the county be so dependent on one person? What happens if he decides he wants to look for employment elsewhere? Seems like the county is maybe setting themselves up for failure. Adding an elections admin will only ADD to the CONFUSION!

I'm wondering if this position was implemented just to give the county chair more time and room to continue her power trip of picking and choosing what candidate runs and what candidate wins, among OTHER unethical behavior instead of ACTUALLY DOING her J.O.B? The incompetence is HORRENDOUS and

is an embarrassment for the county.

While the County Chair might have some clue as to how elections have gone in the past, she is SUPPOSED to be conservative and isn't a conservative AGAINST BIG government? It seems that this EA position was the county chairs idea and she used her minion, the county clerk, who she campaigned for, to get the position approved. If a voter had been to a republican meeting they would have seen the courting of Terri Ross when she was a candidate for County Clerk BY the county chair.

The unethical, yet under the radar actions and behavior have gone on long enough and the voters are sick of it.

Heres a FUN IDEA! Why not expect your employees to do their jobs instead of increasing the counties costs by adding an Elections Admin? The more positions that are added allows the employees to constantly pass the buck and sit on their hands.

Upshur county doesnt need a elections admin and the commissioners are given too much leeway and discretion with the tax payers dollars.

If and when the position of Elections admin gets too much on the counties budget, will the voters be taxed MORE just to pay for it??

Wake up Upshur County and see whats happening right beneath your noses.

Great job Berka for at least trying to stand up and not give in to the click and BULLIES in Upshur County. I hope you dont lose your job because of it.

Can't wait to leave
|
September 07, 2015
I'm counting the days until I can see Gilmer/upshur county in my review mirror......oh happy dayyyyyy
anonymous
|
September 07, 2015
Yeah, that makes two of us.. now if I can find a illegal to but rape on the price of the homestead,, I would be in good shape,, as that seems to be all that is moving here and white trash dope heads,, and 1/2 breeds nigger/whites shacked up together. That is what the democraps have drawn into gilmer. The so call republican reps...
anonymous
|
September 06, 2015
Can you say,,, bigger government brought to you by party jumpers,,, as the demcraps have always supported bigger government,,

But when the people of the county keep electing the same ol reruns party jumpers, and the merry men click,,

well this is what you end up with...

Just stating the facts,,,
anonymous
|
September 06, 2015
Dean’s husband, Haskell Dean, is running against Berka for the Republican nomination for commissioner in 2016.

So that is why the pig trail known as Holly rd, go some much needed repair. Even tho, those repairs will not last. But citizens are grateful.

But looks like another member of the merry men click will be running for office. Humm, just have to see how this bullshit turns out..

Need to make sure this new office, doe not let illegals vote, and yes that includes the one's with EXPIRED GREEN CARDS!

But again, DOES THE COUNTY TRULY NEED THIS? When there are so DAMN MANY OTHER NEEDS.. Just stating the facts!

anonymous
|
September 06, 2015
Like emergency services, better roads, better services all the way around. Try to attract industry.. jobs.. Just to name a few,,