Search starts for next elections director

Chris Berendt Staff Writer

December 31, 2013

Sampson County is officially searching for its next Board of Elections director, advertising the vacant position on the county’s website Friday. Applications will be accepted until mid-January.

Former Elections director Donna Marshburn passed away Nov. 19 after a years-long bout with sickness. Marshburn had a wealth of experience, about 20 years, in both the Veterans and Elections offices. She took over as Board of Elections director following the retirement of longtime director Sylvia Thornton, who held the post for 39 years.

Marshburn served in an interim basis for a month in early 2010 before assuming the permanent role in March 2010. Four years later, the county’s elections board is trying to find someone they said will have big shoes to fill.

According to the county’s job posting, the director will have administrative duties assigned by the three-person Board of Elections relating to the conduct of local, state and national elections in Sampson. Those duties may include planning elections, setting up polling places, training all elections staff, registering voters and filing candidates, as well as coordinating, scheduling and recording Board of Elections meetings and preparing the departmental budget.

The person should have knowledge on electoral processes and procedures, but that is not a must. The county has set a Jan. 15 deadline for applications.

As she has for several weeks now, Thornton will serve as interim Elections director until the county can hire a replacement. Board of Elections chairman Ted Lockerman has expressed his hope that Thornton would also assist the board during the hiring process. At a recent meeting, Lockerman and fellow board members Danny Jackson and Horace Bass reviewed the position’s benefits and salary range and information that was previously requested from the county.

“We wanted to be able to intelligently answer any questions people may have about the position,” Lockerman said.

Lockerman said the number of applicants would be narrowed based on their qualifications and interviews. He said May primaries are looming and it is the goal of the Board of Elections that the position be filled as soon as possible, but has also emphasized the need to find the right person for Sampson County, and the political process as a whole.

“The process will take at least two months,” Lockerman noted earlier this month. “We’d like to find someone with some experience but they can gain experience. We would love to have someone by the end of February or first of March. That’s still a very short time period to prepare for (May) primaries.”

That person will have to be a special one to fill the shoes of Marshburn, and Thornton before her, but will also come into an office that is like a family. The Veterans Office and Board of Elections work in tight quarters in the same building, presenting a close-knit situation for its employees.

Thornton has said it takes a special person to work in the kind of environment presented by the Board of Elections/Veterans Office. For years, the offices have been full of those kind of people. Marshburn, who she called a “special lady,” was one of them. The county is hoping to find another.

“Whoever comes in has to be a special person,” Veterans Service officer Ann Knowles said last month. “We live in each other’s pockets. We spend more time together than we do at home.”

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at