Avery “Ava” Cook Smith is retiring from her position as Butts County’s Registrar and Elections Director after 43 years of service to Butts County.
A reception honoring Smith will be held from 3-5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 14 at the Butts County Administration Building.
Tina Lunsford of Jackson, previously Elections Director in Henry County, will become the new Butts County Elections’ Director Jan. 6.
Smith first worked on elections in 1971, when elections were a part of the Probate Office.
“I started at the bottom working polls, hauling boxes, whatever needed doing,” she said. “I learned a lot about elections from working at the polls.
“Back then we had about 4,000 registered voters in the county. Today we have 19,000 registered voters… the registry has grown.”
Currently, the Registrar and Director of Elections is a separate entity monitored by a board appointed by the Butts County Commissioners and the City Councils of Jackson, Flovilla, and Jenkinsburg.
Smith said that this election work “is important,” and that she has tried to serve the county well.
“I was proud to purchase a Balator machine which has allowed the county to print some of their own absenttee ballots — that machine paid for itself in one year,” she said. “We are still saving the county money and time with the purchase of that machine.”
Another thing that has saved the county a great deal of money, according to Smith, is the merging of all historic precincts. Today every voter casts his or her vote at the Administration Building in Jackson.
“Having one central voting precinct has save us money in renting buildings, insuring those buildings for the day, hiring people to transport equipment to the different precincts, and hiring people to man the voting sites,” Smith said.
Election fraud has not been a big problem in the county in the years Smith has been in office. “We have had one or two people who tried to vote more than once out of confusion and only one serious fraud case,” Smith said. “But we work hard to keep accurate records and to keep everything organized.”
In 2017, Smith won The Ann Hicks Award from the State Elections Association in recognition of her work in the Elections office. The Hicks Award is given every other year to recognize outstanding achievements by an election official.
Smith’s office staff recommended her for the Hicks Award.
Smith said her staff — Sharon Duffey, Cheryl Rogers, Gwen Cook and Annette Parris — are a very hard working, dedicated group of women. She said they are not just her coworkers, but family. She also said she has a wonderful board who supports her.
“I am thankful to the people of Butts County for their support over the years,” said Smith. “In retirement I hope to continue to enjoy my grandchildren and Albert and I are looking forward to doing more camping.”