Elections Board hires assistant for St. Croix office

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ST. CROIX - The St. Croix Board of Elections met in a specially called meeting Monday and announced that it has selected an individual to serve as its new administrative assistant.

The board also agreed upon a finalized version of the calendar for this year's election, after the St. Thomas board signed-off on it on Thursday, and the calendar is expected to be released this week.

Shortly after the meeting was called to order Monday, Chairman Adelbert Bryan entertained a motion to move into executive session to discuss the group's final candidates for administrative assistant and make a selection.

Bryan said by the close of the position posting last month, 41 people applied and 20 applicants were selected to move forward to the interview portion of the process.

The board then narrowed the field down to five individuals, and when they met on Monday, they determined that they would offer the job to Patrick Cawdette, Bryan said.

The position's starting pay is $35,000 annually, and Cawdette would be subject to work through a one-year probation period and participate in job evaluations by the board.

Bryan said Monday that Cawdette was determined to be the best candidate suited for the job, but his hiring would be subject to a local police record check and a criminal background check on the National Crime Information Center's database.

The matter concerning the potential hire was the only agenda item Monday, and Bryan then opened the floor for residents to ask questions or make comment, as he does at the end of each meeting.

Retiree Scott Liburd asked Bryan about the starting salary of the position, saying that given Cawdette's qualification and education the salary is too low.

"Somebody with a master's degree and that's all you offering them," he asked? "That is crazy. People doing all kind of small jobs and making more money than that."

Bryan said the salary is what the position is budgeted for at this point, but the amount could increase after performance evaluations.

The position was made available after complaints from Bryan that the board was having difficulty working with the current assistant, Tricia Johnson, who has since filled a vacant Elections clerk position for the V.I. Elections System.

Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes said Monday that a similar selection process is ongoing in the St. Thomas-St. John District to find a replacement for its administrative assistant, Sharon Benjamin, who resigned abruptly last year, but that process has not yet reached the interview stage.

Fawkes also addressed the issues involving the long-awaited election calendar, saying it should be ready for release today after minor revisions are made and the board chairmen in each district sign off on it.

"We had our district meeting on St. Thomas Thursday and got the signatures over there, and now I just need Chairman Bryan to concur or not and we will be ready to go," she said.

She said there had been a number of challenges to the board and with the new management team in place at the Elections System, everything was scrutinized. The last set of issues with the calendar came with the day that casting of the lots is scheduled, which seemed to conflict with the last day to withdraw, according to Fawkes.

"It can all be worked out, and the first day affected by the calendar is in May, so we can go ahead and get it out." she said. "There is no real show-stopper when it comes to the Elections calendar or the election cycle, and we are going forward."

She said the primary election is slated for Aug. 2, and the General Election is scheduled for Nov. 4.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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