Balto. County search for elections chief complicated by state's hiring freeze

November 26, 2001|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

For the first time in more than 30 years, Baltimore County is searching for a new elections administrator, a task made more difficult by the rigors of the job and a state hiring freeze.

Doris J. Suter, a fixture in county politics, had held the post since the late 1960s. She died Nov. 12 of lung cancer.

Suter started working in the elections office in the 1950s. Over the years she dealt with election challenges, allegations of voter fraud, the management of 2,400 poll workers, and the distribution of sample ballots to hundreds of thousands of voters in 187 precincts.

Her successor will be chosen by the county Board of Elections, said Robert J. Seidel Sr., the board's president. He said the board will solicit applications and conduct interviews soon.

But hiring a replacement is more complicated than that.

The position is part of state government, and the state has imposed a hiring freeze, said Tim G. Augustine, deputy administrator of the Maryland Board of Elections.

The hiring of a replacement for Suter would have to be approved by the Department of Budget and Management.

"I can't imagine that would be denied - we're coming right into an election cycle," Augustine said.

If permission is granted, the selection process should take about two months, he said. Although the elections office is busiest during the months before an election, planning is essential, Seidel said.

"It isn't something a greenhorn can walk right in and take over," he said.

Until a successor is named, the deputy director of the elections office, Darlene M. Anderson, will fill in for Suter.

Suter was not only an effective manager but was also "probably the most knowledgeable and respected person in Baltimore County politics," admired by Democrats and Republicans alike, said County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger.

"Whether you were an incumbent elected official in a very high position or a young person running for the first time, she was always very fair and decent," he said.

"When I was a young person in my late 20s and I decided to run for office, she sat me down and taught me how to do everything. She had great communication skills."

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