Longtime supervisor of elections retiring at end of March

Deborah Clark

Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark won’t be running for re-election in November, instead she is retiring effective March 31.

Clark sent her letter of resignation to Gov. Ron DeSantis on Feb. 17.

“What a tremendous honor it has been to serve the citizens of Pinellas County for 42 years, representing them as their Supervisor of Elections for almost 20 years,” Clark said in her letter.

Clark, 71, began her career at the Elections office in 1978 and served as deputy director from 1982 to June 2000 when former Gov. Jeb Bush chose her to complete the unexpired term of former Supervisor of Elections Dorothy Ruggles, who died March 16, 2000.

She was elected to the position in 2000 and re-elected in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016.

During her years in office, she has seen many changes, including the move from paper ballots to electronic voting. She is a fan of mail ballots and has encouraged the county’s voters to take advantage of the convenience of voting from home.

She is proud of the work the Elections office has done to promote the Vote in Honor of a Vet program. During a county commission meeting on Aug. 9, 2016, she talked about the success of the program and the increase in voter turnout among ages 18-30, which at that time was higher than the national average.

Clark attributed the turnout to the success of the Vote in Honor of a Vet program and the thousands of students it has touched since its inception in 2003.

“It is easy to take a lot for granted,” Clark told commissioners, including the right to vote.

Clark’s staff presents the program each year at area high schools to encourage voter participation among young people. Veteran’s biographies are included as part of a voter registration drive to high school seniors. After students register to vote, they are encouraged to vote in honor of their vet.

“The intent of this program is to encourage voter participation among our senior high school voting-age population, as well as teach them about the sacrifices our veterans have made so that we may continue to live in a democratic society,” Clark explains at www.votepinellas.com/Veterans. “By exercising our right to vote, we show veterans the respect they deserve for protecting our representative democracy.”

Clark will remain on the job through the March 17 presidential preference primary and municipal elections. She will be on the canvassing board that will certify those elections.

But a new supervisor of elections will be needed for the primary election on Aug. 18 and the general election on Nov. 3.

In her letter to the governor, she recommended that he consider her chief deputy, Julie Marcus, for the job.

Clark said that Marcus has 17 years of elections administration experience, which gives her institutional knowledge and hands-on experience.

“Julie is unquestionably the most qualified person for this position and is prepared and ready to manage the complexities and responsibilities of being supervisor of elections for Pinellas County,” Clark said. “I have the utmost confidence in her ability to continue our tradition of conducting excellent elections.”

Clark has always taken her job and its responsibilities seriously. She was among the first 300 elections officials in the nation to receive designation as a Certified Elections and Registration Administrator.

She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections and is vice chair of its administration rules committee. She also is involved in other elections-related organizations and charitable organizations.

“I have been so honored to serve the people of Pinellas County as their Supervisor of Elections,” Clark said. “Now it is time to move to the next chapter of my life, as I look forward to spending more time with my wonderful husband and family.”

All the county’s constitutional officers are up for re-election this year, including supervisor of elections. Thus far the only candidate announced is Democrat Ruqaiyah McGee.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.