After enjoying a few years off, Matt Blender decided it was time for a change.
The retired attorney took a set of oaths Thursday morning to become the local Democratic Party’s new representative on Forsyth County’s board of elections.
“I just felt it was a good time to become involved with a civic responsibility,” Blender said. “I knew that the position was coming open eventually, so I just made it known that I would be interested in serving.”
Blender’s interest began about two years ago, when he started attending some of the board’s meetings in anticipation of the general election.
His legal background will help him transition into his new role, he said, as will the fact that there is no election in the county this year.
The Rhode Island native said the board serves as one of the most fundamental functions of government.
“It is one of the areas that touches people most directly when they go to the polls to elect public officials or express their opinion on public issues,” he said. “It’s one of the most basic things that people do and it’s important that government get that process right.”
The elections board has two other members: Gary J. Smith, chairman and chief voter registrar; and Brant Meadows, the Republican representative.
Though chosen by the party, Blender said he sees his role as nonpartisan.
“I look at the board’s function as being one of seeing that the process of registering voters and conducting elections is done in an effective way so that anyone who is eligible to vote gets a reasonable opportunity to do so,” he said. “I see that not as a partisan issue, but an issue of appropriate government.”
Blender succeeds Janis Thomas, who had served on the board since 1991. Thomas stepped down Aug. 31, the last day of her term.
The board approved Democratic Party Chairwoman Ricia Maxie’s appointment of Blender last month.
But because he wasn’t sworn in until Tuesday, there is some question as to whether his term will expire four years from Sept. 1 or from his swear-in date nearly two months later.
After administering the oath, Forsyth County Probate Court Judge Lynwood “Woody” Jordan told Blender “there are some difficulties with the records here in the county level concerning terms.”
“I have been investigating that and I’ve asked the county attorney to investigate it also,” Jordan said. “Nobody is sure. That’s what we’re straightening out now, so we don’t have these difficulties anymore.”
County Attorney Ken Jarrard said a decision will be made with “respect to whether hard dates exist from commencement and termination, and we will certainly come up with a consensus we both can agree on.”
The county’s board of elections is no stranger to drama. Issues involving Smith’s actions and spending habits have surfaced on several occasions.
Though Blender is aware of the board’s past, he said his goal is to “keep things focused on what our primary function is, and that is registering voters and conducting fair and open elections.”
Blender has lived in Forsyth County since 2000. He and his wife, Karen, have two grown children.