Director of Board of Election Commissioners to leave July 1

Justin Clay, executive director since 2013 of the state Board of Election Commissioners, submitted his resignation Thursday, effective July 1.

Clay said in a letter to the board that "my wife has accepted employment requiring relocation beginning on that date."

He said in an interview that he and his wife, Kendra, are relocating to Northwest Arkansas and he doesn't know in which town they will reside because they don't have a house yet. He wouldn't say what job his wife accepted.

"I am truly grateful to the state Board of Election Commissioners for the opportunity to serve in this capacity for the past three years and am equally eager to pursue new opportunities for myself and my family," Clay said in his letter.

"Please know that I am available to assist in any way during this transition period and will continue the board's mission of working to improve the orderly conduct of elections in the state throughout the remainder of my employment."

Clay's salary as executive director is $73,151, according to the Arkansas Transparency website. He has worked for the board since August 2011 and previously served as educational services manager. He worked in voter registration in the secretary of state's office from 2005 to 2011.

The chairman of the seven-member board is Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin.

The board's mission to improve the orderly conduct of elections by promoting fair and orderly election procedures through education, assistance and monitoring, according to its website.

Asked whether the job will be advertised, Martin spokesman Chris Powell said Thursday that the board is responsible for choosing a new director. "I assume the position would be advertised."

Asked whether Martin wants to advertise the position, Powell said that "to my knowledge, nothing has been discussed regarding advertisement of the position at this point. Mr. Clay just resigned and his resignation is not effective until July 1."

The board's other members are Rhonda Cole, Chad Pekron, Charles Roberts, James Harmon Smith III, Stu Soffer, and C.S. Walker.

Clay's resignation comes after Rob Hammons, the secretary of state's elections division director, submitted his resignation two weeks ago.

Hammons' resignation becomes effective April 22. Hammons said he "was kind of burned out from elections. I have been doing it for 18 years and I'm tired of it."

Asked whether Martin wants to merge the Board of Election Commissioners into the secretary of state's office, Powell replied that "currently, our office is focused on the fiscal session.

"Right now, we have no formal plans to that end. However, SB [Senate Bill] 722 of the 2013 regular session would have done that and we did support that effort, though it was unsuccessful," Powell said.

Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, proposed that bill, which died in the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee.

NW News on 04/09/2016