New electoral board members hit ground running
Hopewell interims named chairman and vice chairman, vow unity in running future elections
HOPEWELL -- Interim members of the city Electoral Board attended their first meeting Thursday night, just days before Tuesday’s election. And they did not waste time getting their feet wet, either. George Uzzle and Sheila Mickelson, named to replace David W. Silvestro and Herbert F. Townes Jr., were immediately selected as board chairman and vice chairman, respectively. The former chairman, Patrick Washington, became the board secretary.
Uzzle and Mickelson were appointed to the board last week to succeed Silvestro and Townes after the latter were suspended by a Hopewell Circuit Court judge over charges made by the state Board of Elections over malfeasance in office. Silvestro was the board’s vice chairman, and Townes was its secretary.
Uzzle and Mickelson were recommended for the positions by the Hopewell Democratic Committee. Under state law, the majority of the local and state electoral boards must represent the party of the sitting governor.
Washington is the lone Republican.
Uzzle has no electoral board experience, but said he is familiar with the process, being a former vice chairman of the Hopewell Democrats.
Mickelson said she feels each board member “is very capable and qualified, and each has their own strengths in terms of leadership.
“I think the people in Hopewell will be very well served with George’s leadership and Patrick’s leadership,” she said.
Mickelson said both she and Uzzle will be relying on
relying on guidance from Washington and General Registrar Yolanda W. Stokes as they prepare for Tuesday’s election.
The board also set Nov. 26 as its next meeting date.
The tenures of Uzzle and Mickelson will be determined by the outcome of the court action against Silvestro and Townes.
On Sept. 20, the state Board of Elections adopted petitions to remove Silvestro and Townes from the board over their votes to send an illegal ballot draft to the state Department of Elections. The ballot had the names of three of the eight candidates appearing in all capital letters, a violation of the state’s ballot-uniformity rules. Silvestro and Townes both maintained they were only voting on how the candidates put down on their candidacy forms how they wanted their names to appear.
Both men have requested a jury to hear their defense against the petitions. Trial dates of Feb. 28 and March 1, 2019, have been set, according to electronic court records.
In the interim, Mickelson said she, Uzzle and Washington will work as a “unifying organization” for the city.
“We have a job to do in the city of Hopewell as far as how elections are being run efficiently and with integrity,” Mickelson said. “We make sure they’re accurate and they’re fair and that we’re accountable. This is the service we’re here to do to the best of our abilities.”
Washington applauded the appointments, adding he was looking forward “to a smooth and fair Election Day.”