Fulton names interim elections director as chief departs

Credit: Courtesy

Credit: Courtesy

Just 70 days before polls open for the general primary election, Fulton County named an interim elections director.

The Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections named Nadine Williams as the acting leader of the elections department Monday. She will take over when current director Richard Barron leaves in a couple weeks. The county is still actively recruiting a permanent director.

Barron announced his resignation at the end of 2021, but agreed to stay on until April 1 to help ensure a smooth transition to the next leader.

Barron took the $125,000-a-year job in 2013. That’s a long run compared to his five predecessors, who lasted a total of six years.

“I’m leaving Fulton County better than I found it,” Barron said Monday, choking back tears during his emotional final elections board meeting.

There were between three to six early voting locations when he got here in 2013. For the 2020 presidential election, Fulton hosted more than 30 sites.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Cathy Woolard, current elections board chair and former Atlanta City Council president, said she didn’t know how Barron has made it so long in the hot seat.

“You are truly a non-partisan public servant,” she said.

So why is he leaving?

Fulton Chair Robb Pitts said he commends Barron and thinks he made Fulton proud, but said Barron has become “a distraction.” Fulton has been a national target for elections conspiracy theories, and Barron has faced them all.

He lead the department through a disastrous June primary that had some voters waiting in line for hours partly because many never received mail-in ballots after Fulton’s system was overwhelmed.

Not only did former President Donald Trump accuse Barron of committing a “crime” while citing a debunked election conspiracy, but the elections board voted to fire him.

Both Republican elections board members and one Democrat, who is no longer on the board, voted to fire Barron before Democrats on the elected board of commissioners saved Barron.

But on Monday, even those who voted to oust Barron praised him.

Mark Wingate said it wasn’t always easy working together during their roughly five years, but he still said: “You’re a good man, fine man.”

The other Republican, Dr. Kathleen Ruth, said: “I truly appreciate all that you’ve done over these years ... I truly wish you the very best.”

Barron’s interim successor, Williams, has been with the elections department more than a decade. Unless they can fill a position subject to national scrutiny and the threat of a state takeover, Williams will be at the helm during Georgia’s hotly contested Senate and gubernatorial races.