The Fulton County elections board named a finalist for the elections director position Monday — about 50 days before the general primary election begins.
Derek Bowens, who currently leads elections in Durham County, North Carolina, is the sole finalist for the position. Durham County is home to roughly 325,000 residents, or about one-third of Fulton’s population.
Richard Barron will official leave as Fulton County’s election director on Friday.
Bowens, if approved by county commissioners April 13, would then weather national partisan scrutiny and the threat of a state takeover through the state’s red-hot Senate and gubernatorial races. Fulton is home to 10% of all Georgia voters.
Bowens, according to his LinkedIn, has lead Durham elections nearly 5 years and before that ran elections for the North Carolina county in which Wilmington sits.
Barron announced his resignation at the end of 2021, but agreed to stay until April 1 to ensure a smooth transition. Barron took the $125,000-a-year job in 2013, which is an impressive run compared to his five predecessors’ total of six years in the job.
And Barron may have weathered more than all of them combined: He was at the helm during a disastrous June primary and the former President Donald Trump accused Barron of committing a “crime” while citing a debunked election conspiracy. The county elections board voted mostly along party lines to fire him, but he was saved by the Fulton County Commission.
Fulton Commission Chair Robb Pitts has spoken well of Barron but said he needs to leave because he has become “a distraction.”
Bowens would take over a department with a budget of $38 million, which includes $5 million in operating expenses. And that number could very well rise because it only funds three elections, despite the possibility of a runoff at the end of this cycle.
Elections board chair Cathy Woolard has said the actual budgetary need may be closer to $53 million.
County officials have said they need more money to address new restrictions required by Senate Bill 202. The bill gives the Republican-controlled state the ability take over elections in the Democrat-heavy county and disallow them from using grant funds. Fulton used $14 million in grant money last cycle.
The board announced two weeks ago that Nadine Williams was taking over as interim director, so she will run the operation after Friday until Bowens takes over.
Ben Brasch is the reporter tasked with keeping Fulton County government accountable. The Florida native moved to Atlanta for a job with The AJC. If there's something important to you going on in Fulton, he wants to know about it. Help him better metro Atlanta by dropping a line, anonymously or otherwise.