The Tarrant County Election Commission will meet at 2 p.m. April 25 to begin the process of selecting a new election administrator.
The Tuesday meeting follows the resignation of Heider Garcia, who has served as Tarrant County’s election administrator since 2018. Garcia will leave the county June 23. County Judge Tim O’Hare said the commission will discuss posting the job description on both state and national job boards.
Ideally, the county will have a new administrator in place by June 24, O’Hare said.
“I think what’s more important is getting the right person, and not rushing it and not settling on someone that may not be the best person for the job,” O’Hare said.
This won’t be O’Hare’s first time to participate in selecting a new elections administrator.
Five years ago, O’Hare voted to hire Garcia, in a unanimous vote by the Tarrant County Election Commission. That’s the body in charge of picking elections administrators. It’s made up of the county judge, the county clerk, the county tax-assessor collector, and the chairs of the local Republican and Democratic parties. O’Hare was the chair of the Tarrant County Republican Party at the time.
Appointing a new elections administrator requires a majority vote of the commission’s members.
The county elections commission is also tasked with receiving and acting on a resignation from the position of county elections administrator. The commission can also terminate the county’s relationship with an elections administrator.
Members of the public can speak at elections commission meetings in the public comment portion of the meeting. The public can also address members of the elections commission at County Commissioners Court.
Members of the public can participate in public meetings by signing up to speak through the county commissioners court agenda. The elections commission agenda does not currently have an item for public comment but the meeting is open for any members of the public to attend.
If you go:
What: Tarrant County Election Commission meeting
When: 2 p.m. April 25
Where: Commissioners’ Courtroom
Tarrant County Administration Building
100 East Weatherford St., Fifth Floor
After the commission posts the job description, O’Hare said he will put together a packet of resumes received from the job posting. From there, the commission members will work to narrow down the candidates and interview them, then ask a couple of candidates back for a second interview.
Texas law makes it clear that the position of elections administrator is a non-partisan, professional role, Beth Stevens, who previously worked with the Texas Civil Rights Project and Harris County Elections Administration, said.
To be eligible to serve as an election administrator, a candidate must be able to vote in Texas. They also cannot be a candidate for public office. It is considered a misdemeanor if an election administrator makes a political contribution and/or publicly supports or opposes a candidate for public office or a measure to be voted on at an election.
“Elections are political affairs, and there can be lots of intense feelings and emotions and all sorts of things related to an election,” Stevens said. “It’s very important to have the elections administrator and their office be sort of this steady hand to make sure that the administration, the function of the election happens securely and with integrity and without regard to the politics involved.”
O’Hare gave a preview of what he is looking for in an elections administrator candidate: “Someone that you know that everyone can trust, and someone that everyone will have confidence in, that they will run an election down the middle, follow the law, and not favor one group over another,” he said.
That ideal person would also follow the directions of county policymakers and not be so open with reporters, O’Hare said in an interview.
“My belief is the elections administrator is someone that runs elections, not someone that submits themselves for media interviews over and over and over,” he said.
As elections administrator, Garcia frequently spoke to both reporters and election skeptics to clear up technical questions about the election process. His job performance earned praise from both local and statewide officials.
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Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter.
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