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New board of elections official named

The incoming deputy director of the Washington County Board of Elections is a veteran of public service and political campaigns who says she’s looking forward to being at the frontlines of democracy.

Karen Pawloski has been appointed by the Washington County Board of Elections to step in for Peggy Byers, who is retiring. Pawloski takes the position starting Jan. 2.

The elections office is managed by two people, one Republican and one Democrat, to ensure a balanced approach to election management. Pawloski replaces Byers, a Democrat, who announced her retirement before the Nov. 5 election. Byers, 68, had served in the position for 13 years.

“I was encouraged by the Washington County Democratic Party to apply for it,” Pawloski said Thursday. “I’m a former member of the Democratic Central Committee for Washington County, and I’ve followed local politics throughout my career.”

Pawloski, 55 and currently working in transportation planning for the Buckeye Hills Regional Council, said her entire professional life has been in public service and politics.

She worked with Ted Strickland starting in the 1990s. Strickland, a prominent Democrat, served as U.S. representative for the Sixth Congressional District of Ohio from 1992-95 and 1997-2007. He was governor of Ohio from 2007-2010.

“I can still remember going to bed on election night in 1996, thinking we’d lost, and woke up the next morning to find out we’d won,” Pawloski said. Strickland took back his congressional seat in that election, defeating Republican Frank Cremeans by a mere 7,000 votes. Cremeans had beaten him by two percentage points in the 1994 election.

Pawloski became deputy director of Ohio Department of Transportation District 10, which covers part of southeast Ohio, during Strickland’s term as governor, and she now works in the transportation planning area of the development office at Buckeye Hills Regional Council in Marietta.

“I’ve spent my entire career in public service or working for nonpofits,” she said.

Pawloski said she’s looking forward to the challenges of her new job.

“I was impressed with the new voting system used in November. It’s extremely important to safeguard our voting practices so that every vote is counted,” she said. “Cybersecurity is going to be very important for this 2020 election coming up, and I’m learning as much as I can before I start Jan. 2. The primary is March 17.”

Pawloski said she’s confident about the way the office is currently managed.

“It’s an excellent board and staff, a well-seasoned group, and I have a lot to learn from them,” she said.

Dennis Sipe, president of the board of elections, said the board had a rich field of candidates to choose from.

“We interviewed nine or 10 candidates, a number of very good candidates. We had folks with experience in the system, we had people with business experience, all sorts of work history,” he said. “The advantage Karen has is the kind of experience that gave her a sort of ready-made understanding of the office through her involvement with the political system.”

Pawloski, he said, through having been a district case manager for a congressman and state employment in transportation, was prepared for many aspects of the job.

“She’s worked on large projects, and she’s someone used to deadlines that involve interaction with the government,” he said.

Sipe said it was encouraging to see the level of interest in the job.

“I think it gave us a representative sample of people both from within and outside the county,” he said.

Michael Kelly can be reached at mkelly@mariettatimes.com.

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