January 17, 2012 - Brandi Orth sworn in as Fresno County elections chief
Paper: The Fresno Bee
Title: Brandi Orth sworn in as Fresno County elections chief
Date: January 17, 2012
By: Kurtis Alexander
Brandi Orth, who was picked last week to succeed Victor Salazar as Fresno County elections chief, was sworn into the office at today's Board of Supervisors meeting.
Jan. 17: Fresno County supervisors on Tuesday named longtime county employee and onetime elections coordinator Brandi Orth to replace Victor Salazar as the county's top elections official.
The appointment comes just eight days after Salazar's unexpected resignation, which left the county with no one to manage the busy election year ahead. The county opened the job to applications for less than a week, wanting the position filled quickly.
Orth, a policy analyst who has 18 years with the county, is expected to offer the 23-person department a seamless transition. She starts Friday, the day after Salazar's resignation takes effect.
"I've been with the county a long time," she said. "I know the elections process."
Her selection to the position of county clerk was unanimously backed by the five-member Board of Supervisors, which made the decision during a one-hour, closed-session meeting Tuesday. Twenty-eight people applied.
"Brandi was really the ideal candidate," said Supervisor Susan Anderson, who once headed the county elections office and supervised Orth. "She was an exemplary employee, very hard-working, very bright."
Orth, a registered Republican who lives in Sanger, received similar praise from the rest of the board.
The county would have liked more time to make an appointment, Anderson said, but didn't have that luxury with a presidential election approaching and several changes mandated for the office this year, such as implementing new voting districts.
The clerk's job pays $118,000 a year, plus benefits. This comes with the responsibility of overseeing elections, voter registration and a number of county clerical services.
Orth was named to the remaining three years in Salazar's four-year term. She said Tuesday she would seek re-election.
Salazar had served in the job since 2001. He cited unspecified health issues as his primary reason for leaving, but said a major lack of funding for the office contributed to his decision.
In 2010, following cuts made by supervisors, Salazar reluctantly eliminated and consolidated polling sites, which led to long lines during the elections and accusations of poor voter access.
Fights between Salazar and the board over money have been frequent.
A voter-rights group recently alleged that the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the office.
Orth said Tuesday she knows the fiscal challenges. She said it was too soon to comment but would do a financial analysis of the department as soon as she takes over.
"I believe voting is a very important right and so is the election process," she said. "I want to make sure we honor the integrity of the elections."
Orth currently works as an administrative analyst in the County Administrative Office, where she's been for seven years. For the previous 10 years, she held a number of jobs in the County Clerk's office, including program coordinator and financial analyst.
Kevin Hall, who is with the voter-rights group alleging the federal investigation, said he welcomes Orth to the job but remains skeptical about money.
"She needs adequate funding," said Hall, a member of Communities for a New California. "If the county Board of Supervisors doesn't adequately fund that department, we're in for a very difficult election."
Copyright (c) 2012 The Fresno Bee