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Board approves elections switch
Luth succeeds Smith at helm
Smith Gary
Gary Smith - photo by Submitted
The reorganization of Forsyth County’s elections department was made official Tuesday morning.

The 3-0 vote by the elections board means Barbara Luth will assume day-to-day functions over the county’s elections and voter registration department.

The decision comes a week after the county commission approved the reorganization of the department, eliminating three positions and creating two new ones.

Luth will take over as supervisor of elections, a new title for the person who manages the daily duties of the elections office. She previously served as the county’s assistant elections director, a position she also previously held in Gwinnett County.

“I am prepared for this,” Luth said. “I’ve worked toward this my 18 years working with elections, so I’m excited about it. I have some big shoes to fill.”

Gary J. Smith, who previously served as deputy registrar and director of elections and voter registration, retains his role as elections board chairman. That position also carries the title of chief registrar.

The shakeup in the department stems from a long-running issue over the legality of Smith serving as both board chairman and head of the elections department.

Smith has also been under fire for his use of taxpayer money. Though he did nothing illegal, his questionable spending habits have resulted in multiple audits and calls for his resignation.

Smith billed the county for mileage and other travel expenses. He also bought meals for poll workers using county funds.

A report covering expenses from 2004 to 2006 showed cause for concern, including reimbursement for 72 transactions totaling $7,081 that did not have receipts.

The county responded by reining in Smith’s spending habits in 2007. Still, the issue of his conflicting titles remained unresolved until a March meeting, when the board voted 3-0 to ask the county to realign the department.  

Following Tuesday’s board meeting, Smith said he was ready to move on.

“I’m going to miss the day-to-day activities of running the elections,” he said. “But I want to be able to use the things that I have learned and have been able to accomplish in Forsyth County on a more broad aspect at both the national and potentially the international level, and I think that’s starting to come together.”

Smith said when he hired Luth in 2007, he saw leadership potential.

“I recruited Barb for this job,” he said. “I thought this was a great opportunity for her to come over to Forsyth and move into a position where she could move into this position eventually.”

Brant Meadows, elections board member, asked Luth if she would conduct elections “in a fair and impartial manner.”

“This board has been through quite a bit of turmoil in the past two years, and if there are any issues or concerns that you have, I hope that you will bring those and trust your board to help you out,” Meadows told Luth.

Overall, the county stands to save about $7,500 from the change.

As a result of the new arrangement, Luth’s salary increases from $50,335 to $52,847, while Smith’s drops from $78,943 to $68,889.

But the bottom line for all involved is making sure the department runs according to local and state legislation.

“I think we’ll move forward with working with the board, and I think it will be a good move for us,” Luth said.

E-mail Jennifer Sami at