There are several things that make Hernando County Supervisor of Elections Annie D. Williams special.
• She made history 12 years ago when, as elected supervisor of elections, she became the first African-American woman to hold a countywide office in Hernando. She defeated a prominent businessman who spent three times as much money on his campaign as she did.
• She had worked in the office for 24 years before being elected supervisor.
• In less than 12 weeks, she will be oversee her last general election — and she won't be on the ballot.
• After 12 years in office, she has decided to retire.
Williams, 56, is the poster child for working your way up an organization. She started in the elections office as a clerk when she was still in high school and rose through the ranks before getting the opportunity to run for the top spot.
Wondering what a supervisor of elections does?
The partisan position, to which someone is elected for four years, involves registering voters, administering elections, maintaining voter rolls, qualifying candidates for elections and hiring and training poll workers.
The current annual salary in Hernando County is $102,524.
Patti Ewald, Times staff writer
1 Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get to be supervisor of elections in Hernando County?
Born and raised in Brooksville, I graduated from Hernando High School in 1974. I've been married to Andrew Williams Jr. of Brooksville for 34 years. We have two daughters: Andrea, 28, and Atavia, 24. I began my career in the elections office at the age of 17 while still in high school. In 1978, after having attended Pasco-Hernando Community College and the University of South Florida, I had the opportunity to once again work here. In 1999, with about 24 years of experience, I decided I would run for office after my boss decided to retire. I was elected in 2000, again in 2004 and again in 2008. It has been an honor to serve the residents of Hernando County in this capacity and I will retire after almost 38 years at the end of my term in January.
2 How important do you think the senior vote will be in the 2012 presidential election and why?
Seniors have the knowledge to realize their vote is their voice and what it takes to effect change. Not only is the senior vote important, all votes are important. I continually stress the importance of voting to all ages even though historically, voters between the ages of 18 and 24 vote less. (There was, however, a higher turnout in 2008 for this age group.)
3 If you could give voters one piece of advice when going to the polls, what would it be?
My advice to voters is to be an informed voter. They need to listen to what candidates are saying to see if they share the same interests and/or beliefs. Study the issues. Don't be afraid to ask questions, and take the responsibility to be an informed voter.
4 If you could give the candidates one piece of advice when deciding to run, what would it be?
My advice to candidates would be to concentrate on their own platform, learn all they can about the office they are running for and avoid being negative toward their opposition. Run a clean campaign.
5 Share a funny — or your favorite — story having to do with the election process and your role in it.
During my last campaign, I was asked if our office would hold a voter registration drive prior. While holding a voter registration drive is never a problem, the location of where the drive is held may be. We were asked to come to a local bar. Well, this was a first.
While there, my staff and I met some very interesting bar patrons, registered a couple of people and updated a few addresses. One guy came out of the bar and before leaving, decided to have a conversation with us. Somewhere during the conversation, a member of my staff decided that the young man had too much to drink and should not be driving (which was so true!). After relaying her concern about him driving to a sheriff's deputy, the deputy talked to the guy and convinced him to take a taxi home. Well, the young man got quite upset with us and accused us of being undercover cops. Needless to say, we packed up shortly after that and vacated the premises. Never again!
Patti Ewald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8746.