By Joyce May
Killeen Daily Herald
GATESVILLE –- Effective July 1, all Coryell County election duties and responsibilities will be transferred to the office of Tax Assessor-Collector Justin Carothers.
Commissioners unanimously approved the measure Thursday.
Carothers and his staff will assume duties including overseeing candidate filings, ordering ballots, getting voting machines ready, training poll workers, tallying votes and reporting election results to state and local officials.
"I am excited about the opportunity," Carothers said. "I think it will save the county money. I think it is good for everybody."
Carothers is the voter registrar for Coryell County, a position that was transferred from the county clerk's office to his in July.
Carothers said he and County Clerk Barbara Simpson have been discussing the possibility of the transfer for several months.
The possibility of hiring an elections administrator also was discussed, but Carothers said he wanted to retain the voter registrar position.
"It's a win-win situation," Simpson said. "I'm ready to pass it along and Justin is ready to take it."
Transferring the duties to Carothers' office, which has more personnel and space, saves the county the expense of hiring an elections administrator and also frees Simpson and her staff to handle other duties.
No new employees will be hired in Carothers' office because existing staff will handle the responsibilities, he said. Some additional training will be required.
"We don't have an election again until November, so we have plenty of time to get our feet under us before we get going," he said. "I am looking forward to the challenge."
The election code provides for the tax assessor-collector to be the voter registrar and also permits the transfer of duties to or from the county clerk's office.
Once transferred, the duties cannot be switched again for two years, Simpson noted.
Simpson has handled election and voter registrar responsibilities for 10 years, having requested the duties when she took office.
"It is an open field. He is young and will just do a great job. He is as excited as I was 10 years ago," Simpson said. "This will free me up to do better records management and preservation. There is a lot of bookkeeping in this office. I have a good audit trail. I track the money very carefully."
Simpson said she will remain available to the public to facilitate any requests for help.
In other business, the court tabled action on prohibiting or restricting the sale and use of fireworks defined as skyrockets with sticks and missiles with fins.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Jack Wall, who chaired the meeting, said he put the item on the agenda as a discussion item because the court must take action on the issue before June 15.
Wall said dry conditions in recent years has led the court to ban such fireworks because of safety and hazard concerns.
"Normally we have dry conditions. This year we do not," he said.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Don Jones said that he had spoken to Coryell County Fire Marshall Billy Vaden, who had expressed concern even in wet conditions.
"He said we don't need to have these anyway. Even if it is wet, they don't want it," Jones said. "They can catch a house on fire."
Gatesville City Manager Roger Mumby questioned whether such a ban would impact the city's planned fireworks display.
County Attorney Brandon Belt said there is an exemption for municipalities hosting organized events.
The court will consider the issue when it meets June 11.
Commissioners also tabled action on permitting the Gatesville Youth Sports Program to construct goalposts on county-owned land for kids to play tackle football until liability issues can be researched further.
Contact Joyce May at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 547-0428