ELLIJAY, Ga. – Three oaths were taken today, officially swearing in the new Board of Voter Registration. The Board has been operating in partial capacity since June when former Chief Registrar Nelda Spires resignation.
Today, though, marks the official oaths of the new Board including Tammy Watkins, Mark Holden, and Sherri Jones. Watkins also has officially been sworn into the Chief Registrar position. Each of the three received their oaths from Gilmer County Probate Judge Scott Chastain.
However, Watkins tells FYN that not much will change in the coming days as the three have been working together for a while now. Holden has been with the Registrar’s Office for just over two years. Jones has worked with the Registrar’s Office since August 2019, but worked in May 2019 as a poll worker. Watkins has spent time in Elections under former Probate Judge Anita Mullins and current Judge Scott Chastain as well as the Registrar’s Office under former Chief Registrars Jim Fredrickson and Nelda Spires.
Watkins said she is nervous about the new title but “ready to go to work.” Facing challenges with new voting machines and training poll workers, she said she is confident in her position after she has worked all of 2019 in training under Spires and slowly working into the position. Lacking a sudden shift and receiving the guidance from the former Chief Registrar has made the change easy and smooth.
It’s a feeling shared by her fellow board members as Jones said she has been working hard under Spires and feeling like she belonged in the Registrars Office. Being so new to the board and newer to Registrar’s Office, she is excited and says she will adapt quickly and easy to the office and the changes coming. Jones said about her fellow board members, “They are my rock! Especially Tammy because she gets to see all the sides of the elections.”
Holden echoed the sentiments saying, “We’ve all worked closely together. We’ve got a good working relationship. We don’t always agree on everything as any board doesn’t, but I feel good about the future of the office.”
Looking ahead each of the board members said the biggest challenge ahead is coming with adjusting to the new voting machines to be used and getting Gilmer County Citizens acclimated to them. Watkins said as Cheif Registrar, she is looking at how to handle the new systems and the publicity they have already seen in the media. While the others are more focused on getting citizens into the office to see and become familiar with them.
Jones added that she hopes to have a test machine in soon that citizens could “play” with in order to prepare before their official use in coming elections.
Former Chief Registrar Nelda Spires said she has filled in for the Board in certain needs, but after her official retirement, they haven’t needed her much. She calls it a good thing as it means, “I’ve trained them well.”
She sees strength in the board now, she said, “[Watkins] has got more experience with this office than I had because she’s worked both the elections side and the registration side… [Sherri] has a good personality. They work well with the public. They are very fast learners, both of them. [Holden] is very diplomatic and I’ve enjoyed working with him. He’ll continue to be a good asset as well.”
As the office welcomes Jones as a new member, Holden in his first full term as he filled a remainder of a term in recent years, and Watkins as a Veteran of the office, voters in Gilmer County are encouraged to visit the Registrar’s Office to see the new board that Spires calls, “battle-trained.”