By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Within two days after the events of Nov. 1, Tommy Hardee received 32 phone calls telling him he should apply for the position of Supervisor of Elections.
“I told 32 people they were crazy,” Hardee told those gathered at the Jan. 19 Kiwanis Club meeting. Why would he want a job like that, he wondered, when he could make more money in the insurance business, without the headaches and the politics?
Then a group of people he looked up to and respected sat him down and spelled out for him exactly why he needed to apply for the appointment.
After much prayer, he says, he put his name in the running and left it up to God.
On Dec. 8, he received the appointment from Gov. Rick Scott.
As part of his brief address, he presented a short video of a severely handicapped young man, Rick Hoyt, who participates in marathons with his father pushing him in a wheelchair. In 1993, Hoyt, who uses a computer to communicate, graduated from Boston University with a degree in special education. In 2011, Hoyt and his 70-year-old father ran the Boston Marathon.
It is a video Hardee says he has watched hundreds of times, and still finds inspirational when he considers the long road ahead for him and for the voters of Madison County.
“In our office, we’re not going to look at the word ‘can’t,’” he said.
He spoke very highly of the hard work Kaomi Ghent and Freda Martin have done in the last few weeks, getting the office ready for the Jan. 31 primary, and outlined the new rules and procedures he has put in place as part of the new system of checks and balances.
He also talked about how the new office space in the old sheriff’s building would work and how it would be set up. There would be a camera system, there would be windows where people could observe the inner workings of the office, and there would be his own open door policy, where any citizen who had a question or a concern could come see him.
He also talked about his plans to take the touch-screen machine when he visits schools and clubs and nursing centers. He plans to talk about the importance of voting, and then hold mock elections, allowing his audience to actually use the touch screens to elect “Mr. and Miss (Fifth Grade Class, or 4-H, or Senior Center, etc.)” from a list of candidates selected from among themselves. It wouldn’t cost anything to use one of the touch screen machines, because it does not need any paper and can be reset to zero afterwards. Hardee hopes that the education and enjoyment of mock elections will get people excited about voting in real elections.
As to whether or not he will run for the office after his appointment is up, he has heard rumors all over the board; people have “heard” that he will and that he won’t.
However, Hardee declares that, “I don’t know if I’ll run or not; let’s just get through this election first.”
After the election is over and things have settled down, he plans to sit down with his family and his pastor and have a long talk with them about the possibility of running.
It will hinge, he said, on the answers to two questions: “Can I do the job?” and “Can I make a difference?”