Electoral Board seeks member

WOODSTOCK – The Shenandoah County Electoral Board needs to fill a vacancy – again.

Chairwoman W. Joyce Gary stepped down from the board earlier this month, leaving a seat for local Democrats and circuit judges to fill. She had stayed on well after her last full term ended to help the board complete some tasks leading up to the Nov. 3 election.

Jeanne Russell, the other Democratic Party representative on the board, took over as chairwoman. Beverley Fleming, the Republican Party representative, serves as the board’s secretary.

Gary’s resignation Dec. 1 did not come as a surprise to fellow board members or other Democrats. Russell said Thursday that Gary never intended to stay past the election.

“That was always the way it was gonna be,” Russell said.

But the resignation did come after a busy year for the panel: Board members had to change a polling location in time for the Nov. 3 election; had to figure out how to hold elections when school was in session; and needed to replace the county’s longtime voter registrar, Lisa P. McDonald, with only weeks before the polls opened. The board hired Lisa W. McDonald as the new registrar a few weeks ahead of the election.

Gary’s resignation now means that the Democratic Party must nominate a replacement and forward that recommendation to a panel of judges in the 26th Judicial Circuit who would appoint the new member.

However, the Shenandoah County Democrats will need to search for its nominee without longtime Chairman Tony Dorrell, who retires from the party chapter at the end of the year. Dorrell, 82, served eight consecutive, two-year terms as its chairman and spent many years as an active member prior to that. The chapter plans to elect new officers Jan. 6.

“This was all planned,” Dorrell said. “We just weren’t exactly sure when Joyce might retire. In fact, she decided several times during the year to do that and then kept going mainly because the local elections got pretty complicated.”

Gary’s resignation also comes ahead of a busy year for the Electoral Board.

“It is unfortunate that we have all this transition right before a year that has a lot of elections in it,” Russell said.

The Shenandoah County Democrats nominated Gary to the Electoral Board in 2012 and she served out her full term through February 2015, Dorrell said. Gary wanted to stay on for about a year to take care of unfinished business, Dorrell recalled. Primarily, the board needed to find another polling location for voters in the Toms Brook area. The board also had to figure out how it would hold elections at two of the county schools that would be open rather than closed on Election Day.

The party chapter needed to reappoint Gary for a full, three-year term to keep her on the board as long as she wanted to stay, Dorrell said. The chairman noted that any replacement would need to serve out the remaining time rather than start a new term.

“So what that means then is when we appointed Joyce to another three-year term, we knew she wouldn’t be staying until she felt it was time to leave and Judge (Dennis) Hupp understood that, too, but he said we’re going to stick to the rules,” Dorrell said.

Judges appointed Fleming earlier this year to replace Cindy Dellinger and fill out the time remaining in her term as the Republican Party representative. Judges then appointed Russell to replace Hank Zimmerman as the Democratic Party representative who resigned about two years before his term expired.

State law requires that the chair and vice chair represent the political party of the sitting governor; the secretary represents the opposite or other party.

The Electoral Board has its own budget, conducts elections, determines the needs at polling places, maintains voting machines and appoints the general registrar. Members do receive annual stipends – a little more than $2,000 for the chairman and vice chairman and $4,100 for the secretary who plays an administrative role on the panel.

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