Interim director: Election will go on
By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 7, 2012 1:46 PM
It has been a tumultuous three weeks at the Wayne County Board of Elections office, culminating last Friday with the resignations of Elections Director Vickie Reed and Deputy Director Michael Barry.
However, Beverly York, 60, who was named interim director during a Wednesday morning meeting of the elections board, said she had no reservations about accepting the job.
No decision has yet been made about naming a replacement for Barry.
"I have talked to the board and mentioned that as something that certainly will be addressed," she said.
The board has not indicated how soon the slot would be filled, Mrs. York said.
"I am looking forward to serving the people of Wayne County in this capacity and working with our staff and board to get the job done," she said. "The first thing that I am going to do is an assessment of where we are in terms of preparation for the upcoming election and put some steps in place, a schedule, of what has got to be done when to make sure we have covered everything to make sure that we are prepared."
She said her experience at IBM and later with the state Board of Elections has prepared her for the task she will have to complete.
"Of course, that feeds right into the November election, so it is going to be nonstop between now and then. I believe that we can move forward and not let that (controversy) be a distraction to what we have to do." she said.
Ms. Reed, who had served as director since 2008, resigned late Friday, following criticism by state Elections Director Gary Bartlett, who attended the Wednesday morning closed session.
Bartlett recommended Ms. York, county board Chairman Joe Lofton said.
Mrs. York said she had not been aware of the issues leading up to the resignations any more than what was reported in the newspaper, and that she was "somewhat surprised" when Bartlett called to see if she would be interested in the job.
"I do live in Wayne County and I knew that Mr. Bartlett was aware of my past with the state board, so it was a logical thought process that he might call. I am unaffiliated. I have always been registered unaffiliated. I am an independent thinker. I am an open thinker."
Mrs. York said she would be in the office this week, meeting personnel and gathering details, but that her official first day would be Monday.
"I have had the opportunity to meet the staff here -- a very capable, very positive staff -- to get to know them further and to work as a team to get our election work done," she said. "We also want to be part of educating our community in the election process through things like voter education, and to let the community know we are here to serve the people of Wayne County, not just in conducting elections, but in any education and community activity that we can generate to make them knowledgeable about the process."
The salary for the job is $53,000 and the director is a county employee for pay and benefits, but is under the authority of the Wayne County Board of Elections, County Manager Lee Smith said.
State law provides for local boards of elections to hire the director and to send a recommendation to the state director, who is required to approve it.
"We were trying to bring in somebody with experience," Lofton said. "We can't bring in a novice right now. She will help us until we can determine who we are going to put in that position. We needed somebody with enough experience to hold until such time that we could have the (July 17) election."
A native of the Annapolis, Md. area, Mrs. York retired after 20 years with IBM. Her husband, Ed York, was a district manager for Mobil Oil. Now retired, he is a government contractor and inventor. Transfers moved the Yorks to different areas of the country over their careers.
"We ended up in New York and decided that we had quite enough of the cold weather, long winters -- we headed south," she said. "At that time our first stop in North Carolina was in Cary. We stayed in the Cary and Raleigh area until 1999 when we moved to Wayne County.
"We visited a friend here, who had a house on the lake. We fell in love with the lake, the house and said, 'Let's move to Wayne County.' We didn't know a soul and had only been here to visit."
At IBM, Mrs. York started out in the marketing division and spent a number of years in marketing training. The last job she had before retiring was as a manager at the Global Services Center in Research Triangle Park. She retired from IBM in 1998 after 20 years.
She later learned about an opening with the state Board of Elections and was interviewed by Bartlett and Deputy Director Johnnie McLean.
At the state Board of Elections, she was a district election technician.
"I had 15 counties in eastern and northeastern North Carolina that I supported in preparing for elections, training for elections and the actual implementation of getting elections completed," she said. "It was quite a change. I learned the job was available and one of the requirements of course was a comfort level with computers and the systems that are used.
"I was with the board of elections for five years until our positions were eliminated at the end of June last year with the budget cuts."
It is too early to talk about whether or not she would consider a permanent position as elections director, she said.
"I am looking to the upcoming elections at the moment no further than that," Mrs. York said. "My complete and total focus right now is to get us through this second primary and of course the election in November. I have not even had the time to think further than that."