County begins search for new registrar

The Shenandoah County Voter Registrar’s office heads into election crunch time just as it loses its leader of 16 years.

Longtime General Registrar Lisa McDonald steps down today, leaving the county and the Electoral Board to find a replacement. The office’s two part-time assistant registrars will continue to perform the agency’s tasks until the Electoral Board hires a new, full-time registrar. The office oversees absentee voting, which begins Sept. 18. Likewise, the office handles registration and questions from voters about their status, among other responsibilities.

Electoral Board Secretary Beverley Fleming on Thursday complimented the assistants on their efforts to run the office.

Meanwhile, the Electoral Board continues to prepare for the Nov. 3 general election. The Electoral Board met Tuesday to decide on an advertisement that the county will post for the position. The board spent most of the time at the meeting on the election preparations.

Fleming said he couldn’t recall members setting a deadline to hire a registrar but they want to find someone soon. State code doesn’t appear to give the Electoral Board a deadline by which to hire a replacement.

Vice Chairwoman Jeanne Russell said Thursday the board hadn’t set a date.

“I think it’s more of ‘as soon as possible,'” Russell said. “It’s a position that the last registrar had for 16 years so you want to get the right person as well but we are definitely in a difficult situation.”

In addition to the part-time assistants, the Electoral Board has a temporary worker it can call on to help.

McDonald began working for the county in 1999. The board had reappointed McDonald to another 4-year term in May. Virginia code states “the electoral board shall fill any vacancy in the office of general registrar for the unexpired term.” The board likely would appoint McDonald’s replacement to a full four years rather than to fill the remaining time of her term.

State code then separates the duties of the Electoral Board and the general registrar. The budgets of the Electoral Board and the general registrar also operate under separate budgets. Virginia sets the salaries of general registrars based on the population of the county or city.

Per the state code, the “governing body for the county or city of each general registrar shall pay compensation in accordance with the plan and be reimbursed annually as authorized in the act. The governing body shall be required to provide benefits to the general and assistant registrars and staff as provided to other employees of the locality, and shall be authorized to supplement the salary of the general registrar to the extent provided in the act.”

State code also requires the locality to cover certain expenses for the general registrar, including staff salaries, training for staff and offers of election and voter education.

The county’s fiscal 2016 budget includes the general registrar’s salary of $52,561 plus funding for a full-time assistant for a total of $81,771. McDonald had not filled the full-time position before her departure. Whether or not the office continues with that plan to hire a full-time assistant would fall to the new registrar to decide, Fleming said.

McDonald received a 59 percent increase in the amount allocated for full-time salaries to accommodate the additional position as requested. However, her office budget for part-time salaries was cut by about 77 percent. The registrar’s office total budget increased from $125,834 in fiscal 2015 to $150,673 in the current period, or almost 20 percent.

The state reimbursed the county $34,324 toward McDonald’s salary in fiscal 2015, according to data from the Department of Elections. The reimbursement amount and the registrar’s salary fluctuated somewhat over the previous fiscal periods.

By comparison, Carol Tobin, general registrar for Warren County, receives a salary of roughly $52,000. Rick Miller, general registrar for Frederick County, receives a salary of approximately $56,000. The state reimbursed $33,277 toward Tobin’s salary in fiscal 2015 and $36,461 toward Miller’s salary in the same budget cycle, according to state information.

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