County replaces Watts on elections board — for now

Long-serving Fayette County Elections Board member Marilyn Watts was replaced on that board by a 3-2 vote of the Fayette County Commission last week.

The board voted to install Fayetteville resident John Addison Lester III to the seat, despite Watts’ request that she be reappointed to the position.

Commissioner Steve Brown, who was joined by Commissioner Allen McCarty in voting against the motion to select Lester, said the board would be getting rid of a significant amount of experience in Watts at a time when potentially all three members of the board could be rookies.

That could leave the board with “absolutely no experience going into an election and primary in about 15 months,” Brown said. “That is not a lot of time to get up to speed.”

The commission appoints one of the elections board members, with the Republican and Democratic parties appointing the other two members.

Commissioner Lee Hearn, who nominated Lester, said Lester is a friend of his and they attend the same church together.

Lester is a retiree of the Southern Company and also worked for Georgia Power, serving as a human resources manager in addition to other roles. He also serves on the Downtown Development Authority for the city of Fayetteville and is a deacon at Fayetteville First Baptist Church.

Lester also has previously served on Fayetteville’s Historic Preservation Committee and holds college degrees from Middle Georgia College and Georgia Tech.

Hearn said he does appreciate what Watts has contributed over he years for the county, but he felt it was time to put a new person in the position.

Voting in favor of installing Lester as the new elections board member representing the commission were commissioners Hearn, Robert Horgan and Herb Frady.

Watts addressed the commission during the public comment portion of its agenda which was prior to the vote. She noted that the county elections board takes matters seriously because of the potential liability involved, and thus hasn’t had any problems at the state elections board level.

Watts noted that the new Democratic Party appointee to the board “just moved here from Chicago” and has never had any elections experience.

“I’m just asking you, what are you thinking?” Watts said.

The Republican party’s elections board member, David Studdard, has recently said he may have to step down. Watts, who has been active in the Fayette County Republican Party, could potentially find her way back onto the board in Studdard’s place.

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