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Change first to board in years
Democrat joins elections panel
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Forsyth County News
Forsyth County’s elections board has a new Democratic representative for the first time in 18 years.

The appointment of Matt Blender to the three-member board was made official Tuesday in a 3-2 vote by the Forsyth County commission.

Blender succeeds Janis Thomas, who asked not to be reappointed after serving on the panel since 1991.

The board also includes Republican representative Brant Meadows and Gary J. Smith, chairman and chief voter registrar.

The change, while the first on the panel in nearly two decades, likely won’t be the last. Smith’s term is up in April.

Thomas stepped down Aug. 31, and fellow election board members recognized her service in a proclamation Meadows read at a Sept. 14 meeting.

On Tuesday, the commission voted 3-2 to accept Blenders’ appointment. Commissioners Jim Boff and Jim Harrell opposed the measure, the latter because he wasn’t ready to vote.

“It’s incumbent on us to take a look at the people we’re appointing before making a decision,” Harrell said. “I’m not quite ready.”

He also wanted an explanation from Democratic Party Chairwoman Ricia Maxie, who withdrew after being appointed to the post by her party.

“I would like an opportunity to ask the chair why she didn’t want to do it and why she appointed this person,” Harrell said. “The voter registrar’s office is key and crucial to what we do.”

Commissioner Patrick Bell saw no reason to delay the vote.

“They’ve appointed somebody,” he said. “Let them appoint who they want.

“What are we going to do? Grill him on his political views? We know he doesn’t agree with us. That’s Democrats and Republicans.”

County Attorney Ken Jarrard recommended the commission make a decision to accept or deny the appointment “sooner rather than later.”

Neither Blender nor Maxie could be reached for comment Wednesday.

Thomas said she enjoyed her time on the elections board.

“I think I contributed to the county, and I was glad to serve because I’ve lived here all my life,” she said. “I wanted to help Forsyth.”

The county reorganized the elections and voter registration department in June, with Barbara Luth becoming supervisor of elections, a new title for the person who manages the day-to-day functions.

Luth previously was the county’s assistant elections director. Smith retained his role as elections board chairman.