|Full Details: Barbara Castleman named W.C. elections administrator
|Posted: Thursday, April 23, 2009 10:25 am
|The move to eliminate Weakley County Administrator of Elections Diane Cashon was described as a “political” action during a meeting between county election commission members Thursday afternoon.
With a shift in power in the Tennessee general assembly, Republicans across the state now hold a majority for the first time since the Civil War. The five-member local election commission has seated three Democrats and two Republicans in years past. This year, however, the Democrats lost a seat to the Republican Party.
Under that change, Weakley County Republican Party Chairman David Hawks announced publicly last month that Cashon would be replaced by a chosen GOP representative.
That move came swift during Thursday afternoon’s meeting as Weakley County Election Commission Chairman and Democrat Kerry Killebrew was replaced by Republican Wayne Chester.
With three GOP members seated on the commission, the motion by Killebrew to retain Cashon as the county’s administrator of elections failed by a 3-2 vote. In turn, Republican Kitty Soder nominated Barbara Castleman of Martin to head the election office, a move that received the majority number of votes to pass.
“I just want to say that Diane Cashon has always conducted business in a non-partisan manner and she has done a good job for this county,” Killebrew commented.
Cashon has served as the county’s administrator of elections for 27 years.
“The replacement of Diane is not due to any form of incompetence on her part. I want to indicate that her replacement was a political move,” Chester announced.
“I think it goes without saying that she has done a great job for this county. Diane, you were most fortunate to keep this position for so long. I think there are far greater things in store for you. At the end of the day, this was strictly a political move,” Soder commented.
Chester later announced during the meeting that he would have chosen to interview candidates for the position, but claimed Killebrew’s motion to re-appoint Cashon forced his hand to move forward with choosing an elections’ administrator.
“I nominated Diane today because I don’t need to interview anyone else for the position,” Killebrew responded.
The board did agree to request Castleman attend the commission’s meeting scheduled for Monday afternoon to interview her and let “her know what her responsibilities would be.”
“How would someone know that this position was available?” Dresden business owner Ricky McHaney asked during Thursday’s meeting.
Chester responded that the board could arbitrarily appoint as this board has done or an ad could be placed in the paper.
Another citizen publicly commented that he had read an attorney general’s opinion that an administrator of elections could not be replaced due to political party affiliation. The AG opinion also stressed an appointment must be made based on managerial and budgetary experience.
“He is certainly entitled to his opinion and if that is the case, we’ll just bring Diane back,” Chester replied.
“I have never seen anything like this. I am appalled by this — to appoint somebody just because they are of your party,” commissioner Liz Dinwiddie expressed before the meeting adjourned.
"I don't think this is right. I've never considered this job as political. I've conducted elections according to the laws of this state, applying those laws equally to everyone," Cashon cited in a statement shared with members of the media.
"I want to thank Mitchell Parham for his nearly 22 years of service on the election commission. He was an outstanding member. I especially appreciate Mitchell's support, even though his decision to support me cost him his position on the election commission," she added.
"I want to thank the election workers, Republican and Democrat, for their dedication and hard work. And finally, I want to thank the people for their support, through their personal visits, phone calls, cards and letter, in the last few weeks. Thank you."
"The election commission office should not be dictated by any political agenda. All voters of this county, regardless of party affiliation, should be assured that the freedom and purity of their ballot is secure," Cashon added.
Board members were uncertain when Castleman would officially take over in the role of administrator of elections.
The election commission will meet again at 4 p.m. on Monday in the former Dresden Elementary School building.