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UPDATED: Elections board interviews 3 candidates

Rockdale County elections board members interviewed three candidates for the third, traditionally non-partisan position Tuesday morning, upon orders last week from Rockdale County Superior Court.

Those candidates were resident John Bickford, businessman Mike Hutton, and attorney Russel Moore, IV. Current interim third member Cary Bond is also a candidate but was excused from the interview process since both board members felt they knew him well enough.

Three others had applied but declined to go onto the interview stage: Darrell Thomas, Elisha Jarret, and James Christopher Reed.

The three-hour meeting began, after an hour's delay, with a disagreement over the agenda. Democratic member Garvin Haynes opposed having public comments during the meeting, saying the sole purpose of the meeting was to choose the third member. Republican member Lynn Brown said she would like to see comments at the end of the meeting but conceded, since two votes were needed to move forward.

The first candidate interviewed, John Bickford, had previously applied for the position but had not been previously interviewed.

Bickford described his management style usually as one of "participation,” when time allowed.

"I would bring together all the stakeholders... Gleam from them their positions and use it make a decision."

Bickford said the parties shouldn’t be involved in the formulation of the bylaws. “You need to leave your party hats at the door,” he said. “You should keep your party interests in mind but it should never, ever outweigh the interests of the Rockdale voters.”

Regarding his political affiliations, he said he had registered with the Rockdale Republican party in 1991 and voted in Republican elections but considered himself an independent.

“I spent 27 years in the military where we were non-political. It was preached daily that as a military officer you had no political affiliation. We did however make certain that everyone of the members of my organization knew about their voter rights and how to get an absentee ballot.”

“What’s been going on the last 10-12 months is absurd,” he said. “I would like to help reinstate some common sense going forward.”

Bickford then asked Haynes and Brown a few questions, including whether they would be able to give an unbiased consideration to all the candidates.

Haynes said “It’s more important for me now to be more diligent taking into consideration the facts and the answers of the applicants of the candidates rather than the ‘trust factor.’ I think I gave Mr. Bond ever benefit of the doubt.

“I am looking for a board member that is not going to cause this continued conflict on the board,” he said.

The second candidate, Mike Hutton, said he applied for the position because he impressed with the care and strictness of the election process at the polls.

“My experience has been involved strictly as an impartial third party,” Hutton said. “If I sound naive because I don’t know the problems you have I guess I am. All I know is what I know is I saw a great process.”

Hutton, a mortgage loan officer and former car dealership manager, described how he had raised his three children in Rockdale, helped start the Rockdale Community Bank, was a member of First United Methodist, been involved with the Boy Scouts, and Rotary.

“I like to help people and I’m a do-er,” he said.

He admitted he wasn’t well versed in the elections laws and bylaws. “I can become well versed in a short period of time, but right now I am not,” he said. He also admitted he hadn’t been aware the position was for the chair of the elections board.

Brown asked if he would be able to move forward with a decision that he had disagreed with or been outvoted.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I’m not always right and I know it. But I’m a team player... Once a decision comes forth, than we need to all get behind it.”

Attorney and former banker Russel Moore, IV, was the third candidate interviewed. Moore had previously made the short list during the last third member selection in 2010.

Moore said he had voted in elections under both political parties since moving to Rockdale, five times in Democratic elections and 10 times in Republican elections.

He described his preference to negotiating a settlement than litigation as an analogy to how he would approach the position of elections board member. “Concession, compromise sometimes works best,” he said.

Brown asked if he would be able to move forward as a group on a decision he had voted against. “I have no concern about my ability to move forward as a team,” he said.

The elections board members will meet again to discuss the candidates on Wednesday, 10 a.m., at 1400 Parker Road.

(Nov. 8, 1:08 p.m.) IN BRIEF: The Republican and Democratic members of the elections board are interviewing three candidates for the traditionally non-partisan third member today. Those candidates are John Bickford, Mike Hutton, and Russel Moore, IV. Current interim third member Cary Bond is also an applicant but was excused from the interview process. Three other applicants declined to go onto the interview stage: Darrell Thomas, Elisha Jarret, and James Chistopher Reed.