Washington County now has two new faces on its Election Commission.
The State Election Commission earlier this month appointed Democrat Charles B. Kinch and Republican Patti Gayle Jarrett to serve two-year terms. The appointments displace Democrat Thomas Graham and Republican Suzanne Chinouth.
Jarrett, who lives in Gray, is the former Washington County Republican Party secretary and Washington County Republican Women president. She also was among a handful of candidates who ran for the state’s 6th House District seat when David Davis stepped down. Dale Ford won that race.
“I’ve always been involved in politics, and I love our process,” she said Wednesday prior to the Election Commission’s meeting. “I wanted to serve on the commission at some point. I guess I thought, what better way to protect our political process than to serve on the Election Commission.”
Kinch, who goes by “C.B.,” is a Johnson City resident who served two terms on the Washington County Commission. He also served on the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board for 14 years.
“I was asked if I would consider serving, and naturally, I accepted,” Kinch said. “I just wanted to serve the people of Washington County. I certainly hope I can contribute. I’ll give it my best shot.”
Comm-issioners make $3,600 a year.
The main business of the Election Commission’s Wednesday meeting was to “reorganize,” a procedural matter that comes around every two years to appoint its officers.
Comm-issioner Jon Ruetz nominated the current chairwoman and secretary to keep those seats. There were no other nominations, and the vote for each position was unanimous. Janet Willis will remain chairwoman, and Leslie Lacy will keep her post as secretary.
According to state law, the State Election Commission is responsible for appointing five county election commissioners for every county in the state after consulting with the members of the General Assembly serving each of the counties as to the persons to be appointed.
The State Election Commission is required to make appointments on the first Monday in April every odd-numbered year. Members of the majority (Republican) party on the commission appoint three members of their party to serve on the County Election Commission in each county, and the members of the minority (Democrat) party appoint two members of their party for each county.
“I guess its just politics,” Willis said before the meeting about the appointment process. “The decision is made at the state level. We elect our chairman and secretary and oversee the commission, but we have no control of the appointments.”
The Washington County Election Commission still has a Republican majority comprised of Willis, Ruetz and Jarrett. The two Democrats are Lacy and Kinch.
“I met both of them when they took their oath, but I haven’t had time to get to know them,” Administrator of Elections Maybell Stewart said about Kinch and Jarrett.
The Division of Elections is headed by the Coordinator of Elections, Mark Goins, who oversees the election process in Tennessee. The coordinator works directly with 95 local county election commissions, candidates and the public on election-related issues.