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HC hires permanent elections administrator

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County also accepts tobacco settlement funds

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HENDERSON COUNTY–Commissioners’ Court voted May 4 to approve Jessica Rodriguez as permanent County Elections Administrator, after Rodriguez served as the interim administrator following the departure of her predecessor, Denise Hernandez.
The county Elections Commission consisting of County Judge Wade McKinney, County Clerk Mary Margaret Wright, Tax Assessor/Collector Peggy Goodall, County Republican Party Chair Daniel Hunt and County Democratic Party Chair Kelley Townsend has spent several weeks to find Rodriguez’s replacement, McKinney said.
The commission held two in-person interviews, according to McKinney ultimately choosing Rodriguez. Rodriguez also served as Assistant Elections Administrator under Hernandez before taking on the interim role.
“Working with Jessica on elections over the past couple of years has been a pleasure,” Hunt said. “She knows what she’s doing.”
Hernandez also spoke about the May 1 election. “Everything went really smooth, no problems,” she said, later adding, “No hiccups, no nothing.” The only issue Rodriguez reported was election workers dropping out because of covid.
For the May 1 election period, 6.6% of eligible voters across the county (about 33,000) turned out to vote, according to McKinney, adding that not all areas had elections.
“The county believes that Miss Rodriguez will do a fine job,” McKinney said. “We want to thank her for the job she’s done in the interim to replace Hernandez.”
The Elections Commission has the power to hire and fire the Elections Administrator, McKinney added, but the commission still sought the court’s approval.
The court also voted to accept the county’s annual payment in relation to the multibillion-dollar tobacco settlement hammered out in the early 1990s.
County Grants Coordinator Jessica Brown said for this fiscal year, the county will receive $179,200.39, which is based on the amount of unreimbursed county healthcare expenditures. That unreimbursed total was $9.8 million in 2020, including healthcare, jail care and indigent services incurred by UT Health Athens, which is contracted as the county’s public hospital.
McKinney said the county received about a million dollars in the initial payment in the mid-90s and that the county has received around $150,000 in annual payments ever since.
McKinney pointed out that a bill before the state legislature would cut the county out of settlements such as this in the future, and “funnel the money straight to them.”
Commissioners also approved using the county fairgrounds as a stockpile relay site for recycled asphalt to be hauled in by 4M Truck Trailer and Equipment and picked up by Boyce & Sons Asphalt, with all overage donated to the county.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Mark Richardson said there’s a Precinct 4 road that has a curve disallowing a truck-trailer turn. By using the fairgrounds and smaller equipment to get it to the affected road, damage will be lessened, Richardson said.
Also, after a public hearing, the court set a no-thru truck route on Waverly Way, a residential street that’s adjacent to a concrete plant south of Athens.
In addition, the court approved a contract to buy from Erickson Trucks a 2001 Wabash 43-foot walking-floor chip trailer to help with Precinct 2 road construction, as well as another contract with Neopost for postage meter machines.
The court also approved issuing two separate right-of-way permits for Bethel-Ash Water Supply Corp. to bore under County Road 3817, located north of Athens, and voted to pay two sets of bills: $11,191.50 in state fees and monthly bills worth $161,338.74.