Question: Shall the residents of Loudoun miss Betsy Mayr who, as of Feb. 28, will step down as secretary of the Loudoun County Electoral Board?
"She's just a wealth of information, everybody will tell you that. I was told today, she's a walking encyclopedia. If she doesn't know, she'll find out," said Dianna Price, Electoral Board chair training to replace Mayr as the board's secretary.
Price, who lives in Sterling, is of the same party as Gov. Mark Warner (D). The Electoral Board is required to have two members of the governor's party and one member of the opposite party, as established under the state code. Since Mayr's term expires before that of Karen Pearson, who is the other Republican on the board, she is the one who has to step down.
Mayr began training Price on the secretary's duties in expectation that Price will receive a majority vote from the next Electoral Board. Likewise, Pearson as current vice-chair is expected to move up to board chairperson.
"It's been an honor working with Betsy. She's been very patient with me this year, teaching me everything she knows," Price said. "It's an awesome task. The information that you learn here is tremendous."
AS BOARD SECRETARY, Mayr has served as administrator of the Electoral Board, which runs the elections, for the past nine years. Mayr's oversees the election process, accepts campaign filings, makes sure the candidates understand filing deadlines and ensures the availability of polling facilities on Election Day.
"The elections in any given county and state are only as good as the people running them," said Mayr, a Leesburg resident. "It's taking on the responsibility and making sure the elections are run with fairness, honesty and integrity."
Supervisor Charles Harris (D-Broad Run) met Mayr in 1999 when he was filing to run for a Board of Supervisors seat, the first time he ran for an office. "I found her to be very helpful, extremely professional, always eager to provide everything needed and willing to take the extra step to be sure new guys like me don't get into trouble," he said. "She's very honest and straightforward, and she has the best interest of the process and system in mind."
"Betsy has done an excellent job in her position and is a very honorable, fair person in a highly charged political climate in Loudoun County," said Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York (R-At large).
Mayr was first appointed to the Electoral Board in February 1994 after serving as an officer of elections for several years. By Feb. 28, she will have served a total of three three-year terms, during which she noticed a few changes in the county's voting patterns.
FOR INSTANCE, the percentage of Loudoun residents who vote has dropped compared to the number who are registered, Mayr said, attributing the drop to the county's growth and to the addition of voter registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles in 1994.
Mayr noted the voter turnout during presidential elections decreased from 90 percent during her first term to 86 percent during her last two terms. However, the turnout for the 2002 off-year election was high at 43 percent with 50,984 Loudoun residents voting, she said. This year, 119,774 residents are registered to vote.
"In order for democracy to work, we also have to participate," Mayr said. "Part of your responsibility of being a citizen of this country is exercising your right to vote."
The county has 52 polling places, along with the central absentee precinct at the Office of General Registrar, which is in Leesburg. As secretary of the Electoral Board, Mayr makes sure the volunteers, who are required to be Loudoun residents, have the supplies they need to work at the 53 polling places on Election Day. The volunteers include 53 chief officers of election and more than 400 officers of election.
"I found out the voters think magically they go to vote on Election Day and everything is there. They don't know how many weeks ... and hours go into it, so that at 6 o'clock, they can go in and vote," Mayr said.
MAYR, a Texas native, has done volunteer work for years, most recently serving as treasurer of the League of Women Voters and as a trainer for the Girl Scouts. "I've always been involved in the communities I lived in," she said.
Mayr and her husband of 41 years Ed Mayr have three adult children and a grandchild on the way. A softball field in Freedom Park in Leesburg will be named after the Mayrs — the Ed and Betsy Mayr Field — for their volunteer work in bringing fast pitch softball to the county. Ed Mayr serves as a coach and works for the Town of Herndon.
"It's a loss for Loudoun County to have someone like Betsy with her integrity and knowledge leave," said Clerk of the Circuit Court Gary Clemens, adding that Mayr has been "fair and impartial." "I am confident she will continue to be a resource to Loudoun County even after her departure from the office."