LUMBERTON — There’s all kinds of ways to spend your retirement, but the outgoing director of the Robeson County Board of Elections wants to travel, spend time with his grandchildren, and visit historic sites.
G.L. Pridgen is retiring Friday after being in charge of the Elections Board since Jan. 14, 2014.
“I just want to retire and do things,” Pridgen said. “Before it’s too late.”
It’s time for change, which is the one constant for life at the county Board of Elections.
“It changes all the time,” Pridgen said. “You get used to one way and they change it the next day.”
Legislators make the laws, and the local elections officials must follow them, Pridgen said.
“The added days for the polls to be open for 12 hours is asking a lot of our staff and precinct workers,” he said. “Think about 13 hours a day, every day. It’s very exhausting for everyone.”
Change has been one of the words that Pridgen lives by, after spending time with BellSouth, the U.S. Army, having his own communications company, and being a member of the state House of Representatives as a Republican.
“I was representing parts of Robeson, Scotland, and Hoke counties,” Pridgen said. “Then I came here.”
Replacing Pridgen won’t be easy, said Steve Stone, chairman of the Robeson County Board of Elections. There are two Democrats and two Republicans on the four-person board, and that may make it hard to come to a consensus.
“It will be tough to fill,” he said. “They’ve got a plateful of duties.”
Stone praised Pridgen for how he led the elections office.
“I appreciate how he’s kept the board informed, and addressed the needs,” Stone said. “He’s done an excellent job.”
The public really isn’t aware of all that a director does, Stone said. It’s not just supervision, it’s a working job, includes 15-hour days, answering complaints, and hiring poll workers. He said it’s wrong to think a director is only busy during election season.
“There is list maintenance, mailings, paperwork, and state requests,” Stone said. “This is not a twice-a-year kind of job. There’s always work to finish, verifying votes and reports, and registrations.”
Tina Bledsoe has been named interim director by the Board of Elections. This will be her second stint as interim director, having served for about a year before Pridgen was hired.
Job requirements include a bachelor’s degree in public administration and three to five years of elections experience. The county Human Resources Department has a handful of applications and decision is expected to be made on Aug. 31. The local board will send a name to the state Board of Elections for its approval. Pridgen’s salary is currently $52,480.
Samantha Lovette has been a part of the election process for five years and worked with Pridgen during his entire tenure at the board.
“He’s always made it work smoothly here,” Lovette said. “He has the best patience of anyone I know, and you need patience here. I’ve always felt at ease. We’re a big family here. It’s a soft place to fall when it’s hectic and busy.”
Reach David at 910-416-5182 or [email protected]