Tightly winding fiber into thread using an old-fashioned spinning wheel seems an unlikely way to unwind
, but it works for County Elections Administrator Sharon Rowe. Thing is, she'll have even more time to pursue her fiber arts pastime very soon – Sharon's retiring from her fast-paced, high-stressed but beloved position next month.
Sharon started in Elections as the Deputy Elections Administrator in 1995, and was appointed as Elections Administrator in 1999. In total, she has 34 years of elections experience. So what's behind her longevity at such a challenging position?
"It gets in your blood," said Sharon. "It's being part of the big process, the excitement… and I love working with people."
Under Sharon's watch our county elections process has taken great leaps forward in terms of voter service and technology. The county went to vote centers in 2009, which made voting even more convenient for residents, as now one can vote at any polling place in the county, whether it be close to home, work, errands that day, etc. But that transition was only possible because of the upgrades in electronic voting machine technology allowing any local ballot specific to an individual to be accessed anywhere countywide. Overall, higher voter turnouts, which are historically low in Texas, are encouraged as voting has become easier, and voting results are timelier as provisional voting (delaying vote counting while voter IDs are verified under the old precinct-specific polling places) is eliminated.
Sharon's quick to credit not only her staff, but other county departments, as the reason why such progress has been made even in the face of significant challenges such as the rapid growth of the county. The Elections Department's success in the last couple of decades, though, sits squarely on her shoulders. The self-professed "elections geek" is continually looking out for new, better polling locations – even in her spare time – and working out how to most efficiently add such places like one would normally work on puzzles for fun. And she habitually reads the elections codes – really.
How does someone like Sharon decide to give up her cherished job for retirement? By considering her life's milestones, especially where she's at right now.
"My husband and I are in good health. We have six grandkids. My parents are still alive. I want to take advantage of all of it while I still can," said Sharon.
So now will come traveling, especially during the next few elections ("Waking up at 3:00 am on elections day will be hard to turn off!"), taking up hobbies like spinning in earnest, and spending much precious time with family, especially grandkids ("It's great fun to stomp and splash," speaking for herself and her grandchildren). Sharon's ready for this big change, but will really miss it all: the work, the challenges, the excitement, and most of all the people. And she will be sorely missed, for her experience, knowledge, devotion to job, staff and public – but mostly because she's loved.
"Nope… I'm not going to cry," Sharon said, smiling. But we might.
We also welcome our new Elections Administrator, Bruce Sherbet, who comes to us from Ellis County with 35 years of elections experience.