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Wheeler hired as elections chief

Amid member attendance problems and an absence of records for their meetings, the McDuffie County Board of Elections has chosen a new superintendent to run the day-to-day operations of the office.

Former McDuffie County Elections Superintendent Phyllis Wheeler made her return to the job last week after leaving in 2002. The Board of Elections was pleased to have her experience in the position.

"We are glad to have Phyllis back. She was in the position for, I think, 11 years before and still knows most all of the poll managers and workers from that time," said Board of Elections Chairman Bill Beckum.

"I am sure she will have to spend some extra time learning the changes which have taken place over the last few years, but I am confident she can accomplish that," he continued. "I think Phyllis has lived in McDuffie County a long time, and with that has a lot of contacts which will help, come election days."

Although she said she enjoyed working in the Richmond County jail system for a company that provides medical services, Ms. Wheeler was also glad to return to the position she left four years ago.

"I've come full circle. I'm happy," Ms. Wheeler said. "When the position came open, I received several phone calls from persons in the higher places and asked to consider it."

In 2002, Ms. Wheeler took the position of elections superintendent in Athens-Clarke County. She resigned from that post after only four months because of problems with voting district assignments and a primary election.

"It was a bit more overwhelming than I thought it would be, but it was something I wanted to try," Ms. Wheeler said. "Their combined government and their system is way different from here."

As soon as the McDuffie County Board of Elections announced its decision to rehire Ms. Wheeler, the acting superintendent announced his resignation.

Kelvin Williams - former assistant elections superintendent and one of the other five candidates for the job - had been running the Elections office since Tiffany Neal resigned due to the discovery of inappropriate material on her computer.

"Probably as I anticipated, Kelvin just wasn't real happy about that (Ms. Wheeler getting the job)," said County Manager Don Norton. "It came down to the two of them, and the Elections Board chose Phyllis, I think, based on experience. Both of them were actually good candidates, I thought, and Kelvin just didn't think that he could continue to work in that office."

Mr. Beckum said both of finalists for the position were extremely qualified and that Mr. Williams already had a job lined up before he resigned. He added that, if asked, he would give Mr. Williams a good recommendation.

"I was really impressed with his knowledge the times I was around him," Mr. Beckum said. "I feel he has a sincere desire to work for the state elections board one day, and I feel he will do well when that time comes."

According to Mr. Norton, the assistant slot will not necessarily be filled as it has in the past. He said they will instead consider hiring someone to help cover all the county offices in the courthouse.

Web posted on Thursday, May 11, 2006

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