BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams said Thursday that she will not seek re-election next year, ending a 38-year career in the elections office and paving the way for a potential contest between two staffers who have worked under her.
Williams, 55, joined the office as a high school student in 1973 and won her first of three four-year terms in 2000. The mother of two grown daughters, Williams said the recent loss of her sister to breast cancer and her own mother's advanced age caused her to think hard about the future.
"I just feel like it's time to pass the torch and spend time with my family and try to travel a little bit," she said.
Williams, a Democrat, made the comments shortly after her director of operations, 38-year-old Elizabeth Townsend, filed to run for the seat, also as a Democrat.
The only other candidate to file so far is Kyro Morales, a 35-year-old Brooksville Republican who worked in the elections office for six years, serving a brief stint as assistant supervisor before leaving after last year's general election to take another job. Williams said she does not plan to make an endorsement in the race.
"They're both very capable individuals," she said. "The office will be left in good hands with either one of them."
Born in Dunedin and raised in Spring Hill just south of the Hernando-Pasco line, Townsend attended Springstead High School and graduated from the former Bible Baptist Christian Academy in Spring Hill.
She earned an associate's degree in computer science from Pasco-Hernando Community College and graduated cum laude from the University of South Florida with a bachelor's degree in communications.
Townsend worked as a child care director and summer camp director for the YMCA, and then as a caseworker for the Florida Department of Children and Families for two years before joining the elections office in 2004 as community relations coordinator. Williams promoted Townsend to her current post last December.
As operations director, Townsend oversees the front counter staff, the office's voting systems administrator, and the registration database. She also continues to serve a communications role, among other duties.
Townsend said her knowledge of the office makes her a strong candidate.
"I'm always looking to improve the process and provide the best voting experience for the voter," she said. "I have a passion for it."
Townsend, a divorced mother of a 19-year-old son, moved from Hernando County to Wesley Chapel in 2008 but plans to move back early next year.
Morales, in announcing his candidacy last month, also emphasized his experience. Townsend said she considers Morales a friend and predicted a cordial race.