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Key election officials to step down

HELEN KNIGHT, seated, and Phyllis Gainous.

Two veteran election officials have decided that this historic election cycle will be their last in their official capacities.
Both Chief Deputy Registrar Phyllis Gainous and Clerk Helen Knight will resign their positions effective Dec. 31, 2008.
Mrs. Gainous, who is the county tax commissioner, has served as the chief deputy registrar since June 2001, and Mrs. Knight has worked as a clerk in the registrar’s office since August 2002.
“There have been so many changes with regard to elections over the time I have served that it has become more of a full-time job,” Mrs. Gainous said while discussing her resignation this week.
The new 45-day early voting period compounded the situation for the full-time tax commissioner, who also serves as the part-time deputy chief registrar.
“My staff has really been stretched with us trying to get our property tax bills out at the same time as the 45-day early voting. All of my girls have really worked hard and done everything they could to help out,” Mrs. Gainous said.
Mrs. Gainous submitted her resignation to Registrar Ann Harrell and the members of the board of registrars last month.
“I have been asked to stay on until after the first of the year, but if the county pays me a supplement at the beginning of my term, the law requires I be paid the supplement for the duration of my four-year term. Since I am beginning a new term January 1, I thought it was better for me to resign and save the county from having to pay me for four years of work I will no longer be doing,” she explained.
Mrs. Gainous says she “truly enjoys elections” but she noted, “being tax commissioner is my full-time job and the elections work has just gotten to be too much.”
According to Mrs. Gainous, the Board of Registrars, which includes Arthur Anderson, Gloria Walden, Charlie Skinner, Richard Powell and Registrar Ann Harrell, is considering all options before naming a replacement.
One possibility under consideration is establishment of a board of elections, which is the way elections are run in many Georgia counties including neighboring Decatur County.
Under the current arrangement, Probate Judge Sadie Voyles serves as the county’s election superintendent. For that responsibility she is paid an annual supplement of $3,883.08.
The chief deputy registrar handles the day-to-day responsibilities of voter registration, conducts the distribution of absentee ballots and the early voting.
Mrs. Gainous is paid $3,519.48 annually for her work as the chief deputy registrar, and Mrs. Knight earns $9,857. Registrar Ann Harrell is paid $240 per month and members of the board of registrars are paid $48 per meeting per day, and usually meet once a month.
“I am willing to do whatever I can to assist in the transition,” Mrs. Gainous said. She noted that a referendum for the renewal of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for schools will be conducted next year and the following year state and local elections, including the election of a new governor.

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