Williamson County Election Administrator Rick Barron, who survived a no-confidence vote earlier this year, submitted his resignation Wednesday. He has announced he has been hired to take over as election administrator for Fulton County, Ga., next month.
Speaking via cell phone from Georgia, Barron said his last day in Williamson County will be June 7. His first day in Atlanta is to be June 19. Barron said the November 2012 Election Day controversies, which led to Williamson County Republicans seeking his ouster, played a role in his decision.
Although Barron said he had previously experienced strained relations with County Clerk Nancy Rister, one of five elections commissioners, it was two incidents on the November election day that led the GOP to adopt a resolution calling for his removal.
On the morning of Nov. 6, Barron summoned sheriff’s deputies to have election judge John Gordon removed from the Stony Point High School polling place in Round Rock. Barron said Gordon was taking actions that overstepped his authority and was verbally abusive to a county employee at the precinct. Gordon denies the allegations.
Meanwhile, in far-northern Williamson County, an estimated 15 voters received incorrect ballots in a Jarrell school board race that was ultimately decided by three votes. Barron’s critics contend the Jarrell snafu happened because Barron was distracted at Stony Point.
On Nov. 27, the GOP’s Executive Committee met at the county’s Inner Loop Annex in Georgetown, adopting a resolution calling for Barron’s removal. Gordon — a Round Rock resident and former chairman for the Williamson County Republican Party — led the charge to oust Barron.
“I will not be happy until he is fired and gone,” Gordon told the Leader in January.
The county’s five-member Elections Commission held a Jan. 23 hearing at the county courthouse in Georgetown. By a 3-2 vote the commission defeated a resolution to recommend Barron be fired. Had four of the five election commissioners voted to fire Barron, the matter would have gone to the five-member Commissioners Court, where a simple majority would have prevailed.
Rister, a Republican, and county GOP Chairman Bill Fairbrother voted for Barron’s removal. Voting to keep Barron were Democratic Party leader Karen Carter plus two Republicans – Tax Assessor-Collector Deborah Hunt and County Judge Dan Gattis.
“You’ve got a group of people from (Williamson) County that don’t want to move on from that thing,” said Barron, who has served as election administrator here since 2007. “And they’re not going to. But I’m not bitter. I’d say about 10 percent of my decision was from that.”
Barron began his job search amid the uncertainty, he said. This past week, he said, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 to hire him to lead elections for the county’s 1 million residents. Barron said Williamson County pays him an annual salary of about $89,000. He’ll be paid $125,000 in Fulton County.
“It’s a big step up,” Barron said. Fulton County “had a lot of turnover. It’s kind of the same situation that I came into in Williamson. It’s kind of been a revolving door. It just presents a new set of opportunities and challenges.”