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Shake-up at elections gets under way
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Forsyth County News
After seven years as Forsyth County’s deputy registrar and director of elections and voter registration, it appears Gary J. Smith will no longer hold either position.

The county commission voted Monday to reorganize the local elections department, creating two new positions and dissolving three others.

While commissioners voted to remove both of Smith’s current titles, he will assume the new role of chief registrar.

The title comes with a pay cut and shift of responsibility, as Smith will hand over day-to-day operations to the supervisor of elections.

The new supervisor position likely will go to Barbara Luth, who would relinquish her role as assistant director of elections, the third position trimmed.

Luth, a former assistant director of elections in Gwinnett County, has served under Smith since 2007.

“She certainly is one of the most qualified people in the department,” said Smith, who pitched the changes to the elections board earlier this year.

“I went out to hire the best person I could to be my assistant and I think I’ve hired that person. I think people need to give her the chance and she’ll do a good job.”

Monday’s vote was a result of a request from the elections board, which will determine Luth’s fate and approve Smith’s new role.

It was also the last step in the long-running issue over the legality of Smith serving in two roles and his use of taxpayer money.

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

During Monday’s meeting, County Attorney Ken Jarrard noted the new positions are consistent with local legislation and “everyone on the registration side has agreed to that.”

Should Luth be selected supervisor, her salary would increase from $50,335 to $52,847.

Smith’s salary would drop from $78,943 to $68,889. Overall, the county stands to save about $7,500 from the change.

“The board [of elections] was looking to make some structural changes there to address some issues and we were just backing them up ... to help make that happen,” said Commissioner Jim Harrell.

“Monetarily, we would have been happy with a break even, but a savings is always nice.”

Smith will serve as chairman of the elections board until his term ends in April. He has previously said he did not want another term.

Smith’s replacement on the board, which will be determined by the chief Superior Court judge, will also assume the position of chief registrar.

“I have a legal commitment. I’m still the chairman of the board until 2010,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is make a smooth transition in a professional manner.”

Staff Writer Frank Reddy contributed to this story.
E-mail Jennifer Sami at