LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Elections is about to get a new director.
The board is just waiting for Kim Strach, executive director of the state Board of Elections, to approve former state Rep. G.L. Pridgen for the position, according to Steve Stone, chairman of the Robeson County Board of Elections.
Since Jan. 1 of this year, following the retirement of Dock Locklear, Tina N. Bledsoe has been serving as the board’s interim director. Bledsoe has been a Board of Elections employee for 15 years, serving as a computer technician before being tapped to lead the department.
Stone said that he expects to receive a letter confirming Pridgen’s appointment soon.
Pridgen, a Republican, represented House District 46, which includes parts of Robeson County, during 2011 and 2012. He lost his bid for a second two-year term when he was defeated by Democrat Ken Waddell in the November 2012 General Election.
Currently Pridgen owns and operates Pridgen Communication Consulting Company Inc., which he founded after serving his two years in the state House.
Pridgen said Monday he sees the position as a “challenge.”
“I’m excited about being considered for this position,” said Pridgen, who maintains he will never run again for public office. “I’ll do my best to see that every election is run fairly. .. I’m going to be fair to everyone. I’m not going to pick sides.”
Pridgen said that whoever gets the job of director is going to have an excellent staff to work with.
“These people are well-trained,” he said. “They will make it easy for me, or anyone, to be director because they are so well trained and know so much about election issues.”
Stone said that Pridgen is “up to the task” of leading the local elections office.
“As a member of the General Assembly, he was involved in establishing some of the new election laws that are going into effect beginning in 2014,” Stone said.
Although he did not specifically name Pridgen, Stone told members of the state Board of Elections on Dec. 20 that the individual being considered for Robeson County’s Board of Elections director has already attended state training for election officials. He also said if the approval process moves ahead smoothly, the new director could be in place as early as Jan. 6.
The new director’s first task will be to oversee another election for two seats on Pembroke Town Council. The state Board of Elections on Dec. 20 ordered that a new election be held for Pembroke Town Council and that all allegations of possible voter fraud be handed over to the local District Attorney’s Office to see if criminal charges are warranted.
Allegations of fraud during the early voting period leading up to the Nov. 5 General Election, specifically people voting out of district, have been raised. In the race for Pembroke Town Council, Channing Jones, a challenger, appeared to have won election to one of two available seats, but there was a tie for the second seat between incumbent Allen Dial, who was seeking his fifth term, and challenger Teresa Locklear. Dial won a draw of a card for the seat, but the county Board of Elections, after hearing allegations of fraud, sent the matter to the state board.
Those races are for four-year terms.
There was a separate council race in Pembroke for the remainder of the two years on the term of Robert Williamson, who died in 2012 shortly after taking office. In that race, Mitch Lowry appeared to win election by four votes over former Pembroke Councilman Larry McNeill.
The date of that election has not been established, but state law does not allow a new election to be held in fewer than 55 days after the chairman of the state board signs the order for it to be held.
“We want to hold this election as quickly, efficiently and cost effectively as possible,” Stone said.