By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Official may give up some duties
Smith offers to train his replacement
Placeholder Image
Forsyth County News
Big changes are coming to the Forsyth County Election’s Office.

After seven years of service as the county’s chief registrar and chairman of the Board of Elections, it appears Gary J. Smith may soon hand over
the reins.

Until his term on the board expires in April 2010, Smith would like to relinquish his day-to-day duties as registrar to serve as a mentor and trainer for his replacement.

The elections board, which includes Smith, Brant Meadows and Janice Thomas, unanimously agreed to a resolution calling for the county commission to create a new, or reclassified, position.

“I look forward to completing my term,” Smith said during Monday’s board meeting. “However, I believe it is prudent and appropriate that I spend the remainder of my term coordinating how to best pass the baton to my successor, such that the transition will be seamless and in the best interests of the citizens of Forsyth County.”

It will be up to the county commission to create the position of supervisor of registration and elections, which would oversee the office’s daily functions. The resolution also calls on commissioners to agree on a salary and fund the position.

It’s not clear when the commission may discuss the resolution, though Commissioner Brian Tam commended Smith’s service.

“Gary’s done a great job and the results speak for themselves,” Tam said. “We’ve had flawless elections and I think it’s in the county’s best interest that we have a seamless transition.”

Smith said after the meeting that he would recommend his elections assistant, Barbara Luth, for the job. Smith hired Luth in 2007 from Gwinnett County, where she also served as assistant director of elections.

“She has the background, she has the experience and she has the capability to handle this job,” Smith said, adding Luth is “100 percent interested in it.”

With the county under a hiring freeze, creating a new position could pose a dilemma for commissioners.

Still, Smith said the goal of the transition would be to “make sure we don’t increase the cost of running our office.”

Though he’s not technically a Forsyth County employee, Smith draws an annual salary of about $78,900 from the county.

The new supervisor position would be a county job, meaning whoever held it could not also serve on the elections board.

The commissioners would select the supervisor, though the chief Superior Court judge would appoint the new chairman of the board.

Smith anticipates commissioners would substantially cut his salary for the diluted role. He said the best option may be for Luth to continue drawing her salary of about $50,000, while he would received the remaining $28,000 from his current salary.

The elections board resolution is the latest in a long-running issue over the legality of Smith serving in two roles and his alleged abuse of taxpayer money.

Though he did nothing illegal, his questionable spending habits have resulted in multiple audits and calls for his resignation in recent years.

But the tone during Monday’s meeting was agreeable.

Despite Meadows’ long desire for change, he said the timing wasn’t right until recently.

“Last year was an extremely busy election year, and to have made these types of changes then, may not have been in the best interest of Forsyth County,” he said. “I think that might be part of the reason for the delay.”

Smith said it would take him about one year to adequately train his replacement. He plans to also focus on a new role as a member of the board of directors for Operation Bring Remote Access to Voters Overseas, or BRAVO, a nonprofit that works to improve voter access for U.S. citizens overseas.

“There’s an awful lot to pass on,” he said of his local duties. “I’ve put too much of my time and energy into making this the best election office in the state of Georgia, and as a legacy I want it to always remain the best in Georgia.

“I owe that to the voters and I’m going to make that happen.”

E-mail Jennifer Sami at