Mekus is mulling questions in tax race

Published 11:44 am Friday, November 18, 2011

Post-election decisions on who’ll staff offices in Warren County government varied greatly as the Election Commission planned to certify voting results today.

Meanwhile, Republican Patty Mekus, 45, who lost a tight race for tax collector after a weeklong count of absentee and affidavit votes, said today she was trying to decide if she would question the validity of the results. Incumbent Antonia Flaggs-Jones, 40, a Democrat, was named the winner Thursday by 56 votes.

Some names of voters who’d voted absentee before the general election did not come up during the days of counting. Candidates kept track, and Mekus showed a list of 31.

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State law says candidates and poll watchers must challenge voting qualifications on grounds of registration, residency or other factors at the polls, where precinct managers must consider those questions. Affidavit ballots are handled at the polls by poll workers.

The Election Commission must send results to the Secretary of State’s Office by 5 p.m. today. Results must be certified by Dec. 8.

While Flaggs-Jones planned to keep her staff of eight intact, changes already in the works for the Tax Assessor’s Office grew. Becky Thornton, the office’s homestead coordinator, notified superiors of her retirement Thursday after 34 years. It’s the third retirement announced this year from the eight-person staff, following incumbent Richard Holland and top deputy assessor Jim Agent. The three have served 79 years combined in the office.

Tax Assessor-elect Angela Brown, 42, an appraiser in the office for 11 years, won the office as a Democrat with a plurality of the vote in a four-person field that included co-worker Ben Luckett, a 15-year field appraiser, Doug Tanner and Mike Caruthers. All three ran as independents.

Brown spent Thursday in Starkville for an orientation of the state’s tax assessors and collectors. When reached, Brown said the staff’s makeup is “an issue to be discussed after Jan. 3,” referring to when county officials are sworn into office.

Chancery Clerk-elect Donna Farris Hardy said she’s not inclined to make any personnel changes among the seven staffers there, save for top deputy clerk Ann Tompkins, who is retiring along with incumbent Dot McGee.

“I really believe in a team effort,” Hardy said Thursday. “It’s about that feeling you get when you know you can work with someone.”

Warren County’s unit system of government departmentalizes clerical staff, road maintenance and legal support — areas that appear safe with the return of four-fifths of the Board of Supervisors. The lone new face is John Arnold, who defeated incumbent District 1 Supervisor David McDonald in the August primary runoff.