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Hall elections director looks to drop 'interim' from title

Sosebee's status as permanent registrar remains up to judge

POSTED: January 9, 2010 11:40 p.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Interim Chief Registrar and Director of Elections Charlotte Sosebee, right, and Chief Clerk Vonda Lequire flip through a folder Thursday afternoon looking for the offices up for election at the Hall County Elections Office.

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Every new job has an adjustment period.

But for Charlotte Sosebee, it has lasted three years and isn’t over yet.

Sosebee has served as Hall County’s interim elections director since December 2006, when longtime director Anne Phillips Lea retired.

Though Sosebee isn’t too concerned about the formality of the title, some think it is time to make her role official.

"I get asked about it a lot, even in the community," Sosebee said. "But I’m doing what I enjoy. It’s just a little technicality that needs to be handled."

In November 2008, the Hall County Board of Commissioners sent Hall County Superior Court Judge C. Andrew Fuller a letter recommending Sosebee as elections director.

"The Commission feels that (Sosebee) has clearly demonstrated her ability to run a successful elections office and deserves the promotion to director," the commission wrote. "With a 76 percent voter turnout in the presidential election, (Sosebee) ran an impeccably smooth election. The county saw first-hand that she is capable of handling the busiest of election seasons efficiently and with strong customer service."

Fuller, who has the responsibility of appointing the county’s elections director, said he wants to take plenty of time to make sure the office is in order before making the appointment.

"This in my opinion is one of the most important, if not the most important, position in our county," Fuller said. "Given the awesome responsibility provided to the court in the appointment process, I just saw little or no harm in allowing time to pass so that every citizen in Hall County that’s a voter that wants to make any comment about the voter registrar’s position would have that opportunity."

Fuller said elections are infrequent, making a longer interim period necessary.

"Since on an average basis voters utilize the office so rarely ... I just have seen no harm in letting some time pass," Fuller said. "And that’s non-Charlotte related. That would be in the position any time."

Trial Court Administrator Reggie Forrester said the position of elections director, or chief registrar, is unusual because it is so multifaceted.

"It was nearly impossible to find someone who had extensive knowledge of the operations of the voter registrar and the elections office and at the same time someone who would possess those skills and the knowledge necessary to be an administrator, a manager, a budget officer and all of those things," Forrester said.

"We recognized that (Sosebee) had vast experience as to voting and elections, but the experience as the administrator and budgeting officer and manager was not there. Her position had not been involved in those things."

Forrester said Sosebee has been learning the other responsibilities of the position during the interim.

"We’ve been working with her in this period of time and she’s growing," Forrester said.

Forrester said nothing but the title will change when Sosebee is appointed to the position permanently.

"She operates that office fully on a daily basis," Forrester said.

Commissioner Ashley Bell said he would like to see Sosebee’s appointment happen before the 2010 election. With several candidates from Hall County entered in statewide races, it is likely that this year’s election will draw a big turnout.

"With all that activity it would help to have some certainty there and to know we have a stable election director who we know is ours," Bell said. "If there’s no activity to go any other direction than to let her continue in that role, then we kind of owe it to her for all the service she’s done for the county."

The fact that she has been operating the office for three years is even more reason for Bell to anticipate her appointment.

"I think that she’s doing the job and the title interim does not reflect what she’s doing," Bell said. "It just leaves a connotation that she may not be there, it leaves a connotation that she may not be the person that has that role."

But Fuller said he has no intentions of looking for another candidate for the position.

"I’m very confident in Charlotte. I’ve been very impressed with her ability to operate the office," Fuller said. "I just decided I would make sure the office was operating at a level that Charlotte and I expect and just decided to let some time pass for that very purpose. I see little harm in it."

Sosebee looks forward to becoming permanent in the job, but says she is content to keep doing what she has been for the last three years.

"I’m still doing the job," Sosebee said.



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