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Deputy elections commissioner retiring

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Posted: Friday, January 28, 2011 7:35 am | Updated: 10:30 am, Mon Jan 31, 2011.

Genesee County Deputy Elections Commissioner Sharon White retires Friday.

"But I'm back on the payroll as of Feb. 1," she said Thursday.

A little explanation is in order. White is officially retired and is eligible to collect her pension.

That being said, the town of Batavia resident accepted an offer to return to job on an as-needed basis because her boss, Republican Commissioner Richard Siebert, will be on extended medical leave starting next month.

White, 63, a town of Batavia resident, has spent 20 years with the Board of Elections. Prior to that she worked 12 years as a secretary at the old Trojan Industries plant off Clinton Street.

"I heard about the election clerk retiring so I applied for the job. This was just a great opportunity for me," she said.

It was also a good career move because Trojan closed its doors about a year later.

White recalled some strange and humorous events that occurred during elections. In the early 1990s a contest for a City Council seat ended in a tie between Democrat Bill Fava and Republican Ken Witt.

The victor was decided by coin flip, which Witt won.

Another year there were no candidates for a county coroner position so the ballot lines were blank. One voter submitted a name on a write-in ballot and that person won.

The winner declined to accept so the county Legislature ended up filling the vacancy, White said.

In 2009 a retired Air Force Master Sergeant, Paul Dillon of Le Roy, stopped in the office and dropped off an American flag that had flown in Iraq and Afghanistan. He gave the Board of Elections a certificate of appreciation for always getting him his absentee ballot.

"I met a lot of wonderful people," White said.

She said she will miss her co-workers, including the Democrats in her office.

"We've got a good relationship," White said.

One thing she won't miss is the late nights in the office on Election Day, awaiting results from polling places.

White has worked for three GOP commissioners. She started as a clerk under Lillian Rice, who named White deputy commissioner before she retired.

Rice was followed by Amy Torrey and Siebert.

White said the biggest change in the office in the past two decades occurred in 2009-10, with the switch to new voting machines. The old green, lever action equipment was replaced by electronic ballot scanners.

"It's just a big change. We were well surprised the new machine worked as easy as it did," White said.

White and her Democratic counterpart, Deputy Commissioner Karen Gannon, rewrote the voting manual used by election inspectors. They also organized an outreach program to help educate the public on the new equipment.

White, Gannon and several part-time employees conducted demonstrations and training sessions in every town and other places such as Batavia Downs, the County Fair and community festivals.

"That was a big job," she said.

The deputy commissioner said one humorous but annoying occurrence that happens each election is people who submit write-in ballots with candidate names such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, No One or I Don't Like Any of the Candidates.

"People waste their vote," White said.

White will continue to serve as a community liaison to Assemblyman Steve Hawley and as secretary of the Batavia Town Planning Board, a position she's held for 30 years.

Asked what she'll do with her free time, White said she will babysit her granddaughter, Gracie, 2 1/2, tackle some projects around the house and help her husband, Paul, with his job. He is track photographer at Batavia Downs and Buffalo Raceway.

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