30-year veteran Harris reappointed Administrator of Elections
By CONNIE ESHThe Wilson Post
Wilson County Election Commission voted 3-2 to retain Lynn Harris as administrator of elections during the panel’s meeting on Wednesday, but the larger story may be about Delores Mackey, the new chair of the panel.
Apparently Mackey is now under pressure to resign her post with most of the pressure coming from the local Wilson County Republican Party.
It started when a member of the audience, former Mt. Juliet mayor Kevin Mack, stood up and suggested the panel name Rob Shearer, a Republican and a former Mt. Juliet city manager, to the post.
Mack cited concerns with holding early voting in Mt. Juliet in the past as among his reasons for wanting Shearer to be named as administrator.
He also pointed out that Shearer was very good at creating and maintaining websites and that the Election Commission’s website was in bad shape.
“The results of the 2008 election are not on the site and this meeting wasn’t posted,” he said. However, notice of the Election Commission’s meeting was printed in The Wilson Post’s Community Calendar in print and on the newspaper’s website.
Harris said that it was true the county Election Commission’s website was a mess since the office had lost its website manager.
She also noted that early voting had been attempted in Mt Juliet in 1994 and 1996, but the city had not cooperated and the response had not been good. When she brought it up to the county Finance Committee for funding, its members refused to finance further efforts, saying Mt. Juliet voters could come to the election office. The law only requires early voting to be held where the county seat is located, and in Wilson, that’s Lebanon.
Between 50-60 people attended the meeting with many speaking in favor of retaining Harris. And many of those speakers identified themselves as being Republican.
Jack Bowers, a retired U.S. Navy officer, said he came to Wilson County when the Republican Party was still a small influence here and had worked to help make Wilson into a two-party county.
He then said, “My friends say I’m to the right of Genghis Khan, but I’ve worked with Miss Lynn for nine years and I don’t even know what party she votes for, but if our national elections were run as well as Wilson County election, we wouldn’t have any problems.”
Most of the speakers noted that Harris has been fair and non-partisan in her dealings with candidates for office and the public and also noted her years of experience.
The meeting was the first with Republican members now holding the majority on the panel. There are three Republicans and two Democrats serving as members.
The meeting began with Democrat Bob Haley as chair, but after the public comments section, Haley and the second Democrat on the panel, Ronnie Kelley, nominated Mackey to serve as chair.
The other two Republicans, Jan Williams and Phillip Price, nominated Kelley to serve as secretary, since state law requires the secretary and chair to be from opposite parties.
Mackey asked if there was any new business, and Haley moved to keep Harris as administrator of elections, a position she has held for more than 30 years. Kelley seconded the motion.
Price noted he wanted to nominate Shearer, but Mackey said the commission had to vote on the motion that was on the floor before proceeding.
Haley asked for a show of hands instead of a voice vote on the motion to keep Harris, and he, along with Mackey and Kelley voted in favor of Harris, with Price and Williams voting no.
Mackey explained her vote by saying she agreed to be impartial when she accepted the appointment.
However, after the meeting she said she is now under pressure from the state election commission to resign while members in other counties where similar decisions have been made have not been asked for their resignations.
“I told the state commission I would look at the candidates and do what I thought was best for the county,” she said. “Most of those who spoke were Republican, and they feel very strongly that Lynn is non-partisan.”
Mackey, who was appointed by State Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Lebanon, said Lynn told her to do what she thought was best for Wilson County, and that’s what she tried to do.
Mackey said she also received “advice” from a couple of other sources, as well.
The Wilson County Republican Party passed a resolution, which was referred to during the meeting, saying a Republican should be named to the administrator of elections post, at the same time the Wilson County Commission passed a resolution supporting Harris.
“Neither of those resolutions entered into my final decision. And I may have made some people mad at me,” Mackey said, adding, “but I see the respect she gets across the state.”
District 23 Wilson County Commissioner Bernie Ash had been mentioned as a possible replacement for Harris, but his name never came up during the meeting.
Staff Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.