Editor”s note: This article was originally published on March 5.
By Jesse Wood
On Thursday, Kathleen Campbell, the sole Democrat on the three-member Watauga County Board of Elections, emailed a letter to her fellow, across-the-aisle members, Chair Luke Eggers and Secretary Bill Aceto, about the upcoming meeting on March 12.
Campbell also sent the letter to members and officials with the State Board of Elections. Campbell’s concerns revolved around agenda items, “director recommendation” in open session and “personnel” in closed session.
In February, Watauga County Elections Director Jane Ann Hodges officially announced her upcoming retirement after nearly three decades of service.
Here is the entire letter:
Dear Fellow Watauga County Board of Elections Members,
I see that you have listed “Director Recommendation” as an agenda item for our March 12th special meeting.
I was frankly surprised that you are apparently preparing to take action on hiring someone for the very important position of Executive Director in Watauga County since we as a Board have never discussed potential names, what kinds of qualifications or experience we want, nor how we might come together to make a hire who is experienced, knowledgeable and non-partisan and who will serve all Watauga voters equitably. This, in spite of my request to you that we work on this appointment together as a Board.
I will also note that once again the Majority is apparently violating the state”s open meetings law by obviously having decided, in advance of the meeting, whom they intend to appoint.
So, please consider this a formal request that you share with me details about the person you intend to appoint (name, background, qualifications, experience, etc.) by this weekend to give me the opportunity to research your choice before having to vote on it.
To refuse to share this information constitutes a failure to perform your Board responsibility to serve all the voters of Watauga County as well as complete disregard of common courtesy to a fellow Board member.
Member, Watauga County Board of Elections
Reached for comment on Thursday afternoon, Eggers, who creates the agenda as chairman and hadn”t seen Campbell”s letter, denied these claims, stating that he doesn’t have Hodges’ successor picked out yet and denied that some “grand conspiracy” is in place.
“I have some people in mind. That’s what the meeting is about, to discuss [candidates],” Eggers said. “That’s the plan. I don’t know why it is getting so worked up.”
Eggers continued, “I don’t know why there is this feeling of me trying to pull the wool over somebody’s eyes here. I don’t get it. I do not plan to take any action on Thursday.”
On Thursday afternoon, Campbell also said that she believed that long-time employees in the Watauga County Board of Elections office, Donna Houck and Larry Henson, would be fired. At the previous meeting, Eggers directed Hodges to fill out office staff evaluation forms.
“I have no desire to fire Larry and Donna. They do a great job. That doesn’t make any sense with the director retiring. Why in the world would I want to get ride of the people with the most experience there?” Eggers said.