The Hall County Elections Board held its first meeting under the leadership of a new chairman Tuesday afternoon, and while the tone was cordial, there was opposition from one board member to Dr. Tom Smiley's appointment.
After going through opening formalities for the meeting, Smiley read a statement to his fellow Board members, expressing appreciation to the Hall County Commission for approving his appointment last week.
"I realize I have much to learn regarding the duties and responsibilities. I have been reading and reviewing duties relative to my task," Smiley said.
Smiley also pledged to support the staff of the Elections Office and those who work the polls during elections.
"My intention as Chairman will be to lead with integrity and fairness. I will strive to relate to my colleagues on the Board and to the public who come before the Board with courtesy and professionalism," Smiley said. "While we may disagree from time to time, we will respond with civility and appropriate decorum in every interaction."
Kim Copeland, one of two Democratic members of the Board, offered words of welcome to Smiley - as did the two Republican members of the Board - but he told Smiley he remained opposed to his appointment.
"I would also like to welcome you and congratulate you and I would also like to renew my opposition to you being appointed to this Board," Copeland said. "You said that you can be non-partisan...and even if you can be non-partisan, the public will not see you as such."
Copeland told Smiley he was submitting the same letter of opposition to the Board of Elections that he submitted last week to the Hall County Commission.
"We'll give you a fair chance and hopefully it will work out," Copeland said.
Board member Gala Sheats, also representing the Democratic Party, did not offer any comment.
Both Copeland and Sheats appeared before the Hall County Commission at its voting session on July 27 to oppose Smiley's appointment. At the time, Copeland noted Smiley's conservative opinions, offered in public forums, as his reason for opposing the appointment. Smiley is Senior Pastor of Lakewood Baptist Church in Gainesville. He also has been a co-host of WDUN's Morning Talk program, a position he has resigned since his appointment to the Elections Board.
The Hall County Elections Office has been without an Elections Director since Charlotte Sosebee stepped down from the post following the November 2016 General Election.
County officials said Tuesday the appointment of Smiley as Board Chairman does not affect the search for a new leader in the Elections Office.
"Administration and Human Resources are continuing to explore how to best fill that position," said Hall County government spokeswoman Katie Crumley in an email statement.