Liberty County creates position to oversee future elections

Liberty County Clerk Lee Haidusek Chambers asks Liberty County Commissioners Court to consider creating a position for a countywide election administrator during the Sept. 10 meeting.

By Vanesa Brashier,

With the 2020 general election looming on the horizon, Liberty County is establishing a new position for an elections administrator. County commissioners, at the Sept. 10 meeting, voted unanimously to create the position, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

“It’s a badly needed position. It’s becoming a full-time job and it takes a lot of time,” Liberty County Clerk Lee Haidusek Chambers explained to commissioners. “We are the only county of our size that hasn’t gone this route, so I think we are due.”

As the County Clerk’s Office historically has handled Liberty County’s elections and will no longer be as involved in the future, Chambers is able to free up some of her budget to go toward the new position.

“I did some adjustments to my budget so it would have minimum impact on the overall general fund budget,” she said.

The election administrator’s office will be adjacent to the county clerk’s office on the second floor of the Liberty County Courthouse as the two offices will be working closely throughout and following the transition.

Pam Milentz (left) and Kim Stegall represented GRACE Initiative of South Liberty County at the Sept. 10 Liberty County Commissioners Court meeting during which commissioners authorized two $10,000 grants to help fund Meals on Wheels. Looking on is Liberty County Judge Jay Knight.

Klint Bush, the presiding judge of the Early Voting Ballot Board for Liberty County, chairman and commissioner for the Liberty County Housing Authority and commissioner for Emergency Services District #7, has taken a part-time position to help prepare the county for the Jan. 1 deadline. Bush, along with Mark Neal and Stephanie Clements Johnson, were reapppointed to the ESD #7 board during the Sept. 10 meeting.

Another election-related matter was resolved by commissioners as they voted to move the voter registrar’s duties from the tax assessor-collector’s office to the county clerk’s office. Chambers explained that she has discussed the transfer of duties with County Tax Assessor-Collector Ricky Brown, who is in favor of it.

“Ricky is the voter registrar for our county but he is moving to another building. The lady who does voter registration for him will be part of the elections administration office when it comes into full effectiveness,” she said. “But between now and then, we do have an election and we have to send out voter registration cards.”

County Judge Jay Knight explained that the election administrator position is not being created to favor either of the two major political parties. The position is non-biased and non-partisan in its actions.

“Once we get this elections administrator office working, it will be under the supervision of the Election Board for Liberty County, not anyone in particular,” he said. “They won’t be under the canopy of the county clerk’s office or the tax office; it will be under the canopy of the county judge’s office only because I have sign off on their time sheets. They answer to the elections board and this is a non-partisan position. They can’t swing either way.”

The County has also formally filed its Hurricane Harvey-related grants through the General Land Office (GLO) for infrastructure repairs and buyouts of residents living in low-lying riverfront communities.

“That’s $4.6 million in infrastructure projects and $6.1 million in buyouts. That’s the $10.1 million that’s available to us. The review period from GLO is 60 days, so we should know something about whether we are going to get funded in about 60 days,” said David Douglas, head of the engineering and permits department for the county.

With the tax office moving out of the courthouse and into a 5,000 square-foot leased space at 3210 US 90 in Liberty, Brown implored the commissioners to consider security and cleaning services for the new site. They tabled the item to give themselves time to evaluate the current number of courthouse security officers and see if one of the positions could be used for tax office security.

Commissioners also approved a resolution authorizing $10,000 county grants to Cleveland Senior Citizens Center and Grace Initiative of South Liberty County for the agencies’ Meals on Wheels programs.

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