As local elections have changed and evolved over the past 30 years, Beth Ann Snyder has been one constant at the Fayette County Board of Elections.
On Monday, the board of elections and office workers hosted a large crowd of well-wishers throughout the day to celebrate Snyder, who retired this week, and her career. Lori Baldridge, the Southern Ohio Regional Liaison with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, was on hand to congratulate Snyder and present her with a certificate.
“We congratulate Beth Ann on her 30 years of service,” said Judy Craig, chair of the Fayette County Board of Elections. “Her vast amount of knowledge cannot be attained in a short amount of time. We wish her the best in her retirement.”
Snyder, who retired this week, began her stellar career at the local board of elections in January of 1991.
“The chairman of the Democratic party called me up and asked me if I would be interested in a job,” Snyder said during a recent interview with the Record-Herald. “I said, ‘What job?’ and he said, ‘The deputy director.’ The deputy director at that time, Mildred Murphy, was retiring and Mary Jean Jennings was the director.”
Snyder recalled that she asked what the job of deputy director entailed and was told “a little typing and get along with everyone.”
“It’s a little more than that now,” Snyder said with a laugh. “When I came in, they had just switched to punch-card voting in November. So I kind of got in on the front end of that although I missed the training.”
Snyder didn’t have much time to acclimate herself to a new job — there were four elections her very first year.
“When I came in, they said you usually have just the November election in the odd number years, and then in the even number years there are two elections,” she said. “Well the year I started, there was a February election, one in May, August and a November election. We did everything in house with punch-card, it was all very hands-on.”
Jennings, who had been the director for over 20 years, worked for two more years before retiring.
“Around that time, the board decided to start switching the director and deputy director roles every two years,” Snyder said. “So Mary Jean retired and not too long after, I became director. Patty Ann Zinn, who was a clerk at that time, moved up as well.”
Snyder has worked with four directors/deputy directors throughout her career: Jennings, Zinn, Jamie Brooks and the current director, Karla Morrison. She also experienced eight presidential elections — but none as unique as the 2020 presidential election.
“Presidential years are the most challenging,” Snyder said. “The year 2008 was probably the biggest change in our office (with the move to electronic voting machines). The year 2019 was our first cyber-security directive, and then they gave us another one in 2020. That’s also been one of the biggest challenges, to implement all of that.”
Snyder said she was proud of how her team, Morrison (at the time deputy director) and clerks, Leslie Meadows and Mekia Rhoades, worked together to survive 2020 and everything that came with it. Hours before Ohio voters were supposed to begin casting ballots March 17 in the presidential primary, the state ordered the polls closed over COVID-19 concerns. The official day was postponed to Tuesday, April 28 with mail-in ballots becoming the norm.
“The night before the originally scheduled election date was probably the worst,” said Snyder. “When they did cancel it we had to call poll workers….then they changed it and it was on, then we had to recall them, and then we had to recall them a third time and cancel it. That was difficult. We have some of the best poll workers anywhere. So many of them have stuck with us through thick and thin.”
Snyder said she wasn’t certain about retirement until the pandemic significantly impacted the elections of 2020.
“It wasn’t a tough decision with the COVID,” she said. “I hadn’t really decided 100 percent until probably after March last year. We also had an August special election that was trying. It felt like we were playing catch-up going into November. But it made the year go very quickly, and we all made it through. I’m proud of our group. We survived 2020 together.”
The revolving nature of the job was always appealing to Snyder as was the ability to meet and establish working relationships with new people. She served as an officer for the Ohio Association of Election Officials for several years.
“I became really active in our association of all 88 counties, and I met a lot of people from other counties who have helped in here,” she said. “And all the vendors we’ve met, I feel like we have good friends in them.”
Snyder added that some people are surprised when she tells them about the unbiased, non-partisan nature of the office.
“One of the things I’m most proud of at the office is when somebody comes in and is waited on by anybody in here, they can’t tell what party the person waiting on them is from. And they shouldn’t be able to. We’re in here to work for the entire county and not your particular political party. Now, you have to be a member of a party to work here. But we get directives from the Secretary of State (Frank LaRose), we do what he directs us to do. The county funds us, but we get our direction from the Secretary of State.
“Half of the people in the office are of one party and half are of the other,” she said. “We’re just working for the voters and we try to treat everyone the same that comes in. We all work together. I’ve been very, very lucky that the dynamics in here have been great. It’s been such a great crew.”
Now retired, Snyder said she is looking forward to doing “whatever I want to do.”
“I’m going to be spending more time with my family, my three grandchildren, and we plan on doing some traveling,” she said.
Snyder said she’s excited about retirement but will also miss the people she built relationships with along the way.
“It’s been a ride. I’ve been very thankful to have this job. I’ve met a lot of good people that I’m going to miss a lot.”
Reach Editor Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352.