Howard Co. names new chief of elections

Former Verizon executive chosen over acting officer

September 13, 2004|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Betty L. Nordaas, a former Verizon executive, has been chosen to run Howard County's elections office, county elections board chairman Guy Harriman confirmed.

Nordaas, 53, of Columbia, will replace Robert J. Antonetti Sr., the contentious former administrator who retired March 31 after 3 1/2 years in the post.

Harriman would not reveal more about the board's choice until a news conference scheduled for today. Nordaas did not return a reporter's phone calls Friday.

Nordaas has seven weeks to ready Howard's office to serve the county's 157,000 voters in the Nov. 2 presidential election.

Most of Howard's elected officials said they do not know the new official or anything about her, though former 20-year County Councilman C. Vernon Gray, a Democrat, said he was upset that acting director Evelyn M. Purcell, who had been Antonetti's deputy, was not chosen for the job.

"I'm disappointed that they didn't select Evelyn Purcell, who has demonstrated her skills and talent and taken us through two elections. Obviously they were looking for things other than experience," he said. He said he worries that the partisan political battle over state elections board administrator Linda H. Lamone could be reflected in the Howard decision.

Harriman rejected that idea.

"We interviewed 31 candidates and political affiliation did not enter into consideration," he said, adding that he doesn't know Nordaas' party affiliation.

Antonetti, who served as elections administrator in Prince George's County for 31 years, was a controversial choice for Howard because of a lingering legal battle over ethics violations in his previous post.

The controversy over Antonetti's hiring of family members as temporary employees and his refusal to pay $7,500 in fines in the ethics case weren't settled until he was ready to retire.

In Howard, he filed suit against the board that hired him, arguing that he was promised a higher salary than he received.

Purcell has run the office for five months.

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