Electoral Board scrambles to replace longtime registrar

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County needs a new head of voter registration and soon.

General Registrar Lisa McDonald plans to resign Sept. 4 after 16 years in the position. McDonald leaves the position two months before the Nov. 3 general election that features local and statewide races.

McDonald’s resignation gives the Electoral Board little time to find a replacement. The board held an emergency meeting Thursday night to discuss the pending search for a new registrar, whether or not to appoint someone in the interim and a timeline of the other steps they need to take. The board holds its regular meeting Wednesday at which point members intend to solidify their plans.

In an Aug. 20 letter to Electoral Board Chairwoman W. Joyce Gary, McDonald states the decision to resign was not easy.

“The time has been very rewarding for me,” McDonald states. “We have conducted many elections as a team with high integrity and dedication.”

McDonald also offered in the letter to help the board with the transition after her resignation.

After the meeting, McDonald said she plans to move to Northampton County where her husband John took a job with an oil company. She has accepted a job teaching third grade in neighboring Accomack County. Their daughter also lives in Northampton County and is engaged to Brent Manuel, formerly with Woodstock and now town manager of Cape Charles in Northampton County.

Gary spoke highly of McDonald.

“I believe the election community is losing an invaluable member because of not only her contributions to the county and this electoral board as it has transitioned back and forth over the last 16 years, but she also participated in the state board study groups, helping them to work on their computer programs,” Gary said. “She was actually chosen by the state board because of her knowledge and commitment and whatever and I think that needs to be acknowledged as well.

“To say that she’s an integral part of the team doesn’t really say it,” Gary added.

The Electoral Board likes her as a person, Gary said.

“She’s principled,” Gary said. “She’s a joy to be around. She loves what she does even during the worst of times and we’re going to miss her on a personal level, too.”

The board convened the special meeting and immediately went into closed session to discuss McDonald’s resignation as a personnel matter. Members came out of closed session after about 10 minutes. The board proceeded to certify that they only talked about the matter they intended to discuss in the closed session. Vice Chairwoman Jeanne E. Russell said they “strayed a little” but then voted with Gary and Secretary Beverley Fleming to certify the closed session.

The board proceeded to discuss in open session what it needs to do to find McDonald’s replacement. During the meeting, members noted that they don’t know anyone yet who’s willing to fill the position at least in the interim. Part of the problem is the salary. McDonald earns about $52,000 a year, though approximately $2,000 of that goes to the Virginia Retirement System to comply with a contribution requirement. The state sets the registrar’s salary. The county does not provide a supplement.

Russell and Gary said after the meeting they would rather hire a permanent replacement than an interim registrar anyway.

McDonald’s resignation also comes after a busy year for the board. Circuit Court Judge Dennis Hupp appointed Russell and Fleming earlier this year to replace two members who had resigned. Gary had also intended to step down but agreed to stay on. The board then had to find a new polling location for the Toms Brook area when they discovered that neither the Toms Brook Volunteer Fire Department building nor a potential alternate site met access standards for disabled voters.

The School Board’s decision earlier this year to keep schools open on Election Day created concerns over safety and security at the polling locations in Central and Strasburg high schools. The School Board recently decided to delay opening schools Nov. 3 by two hours and to post extra security at the polling locations.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com