By K.D. Norris
Kent County has a new elections director, and he comes to the post from a company which this year was hired to provide election services to the county.
Gerrid Uzarski, who served as a regional representative for ElectionSource, a company based in Grand Rapids, will take over for the recently retired Susan deSteiguer. DeSteiguer served the county for 16 years and — coincidentally — came to the position after working for an elections equipment vendor.
“Through three county clerks and 16 years, Sue deSteiguer has led the county, and local clerks, through many elections and numerous transitions,” Lisa Posthumus Lyons, Kent County Clerk and Register of Deeds, said in supplied material. “She leaves very big shoes to fill.”
Posthumus announced Wednesday, Nov. 28 that Uzarski will “fill” those shoes.
Technically, ElectionSource is not a contractor for the county, but is a co-contractor for the company which is providing the county with new election hardware and software — equipment and systems which made its county debut on Nov. 7.
“ElectionSource is Dominion Voting Systems contracted local service provider for their equipment,” Robert J. Macomber, chief deputy county clerk, said to WKTV. “That is a contract executed between those two companies, and not with, or by, the county.”
Selection came after standard hiring process
Macomber said Uzarski was hired through the standard countywide hiring process.
“In September the position was posted via accessKent and publicized throughout Michigan and national, resulting in 40 applicants,” he said. “There was/is no concern with Gerrid joining the county’s team having worked for a vendor. In fact, there is precedent for the hire as prior to becoming Kent’s elections director, Sue deSteiguer worked for an elections equipment vendor.”
And Lyons had even more praise for the hiring.
“After an extensive search and interviews with several very well-qualified individuals, Gerrid’s expert knowledge of our new voting equipment, reputation for top-notch customer service to county and local clerks, and professional approach was of great value to me in making this decision.” Lyons said in supplied material. “My focus is on ensuring and improving upon elections that are secure, efficient, and transparent, and Gerrid brings the right combination of knowledge, experience, and can-do attitude to accomplish this job.”
A native of Kent County, Uzarski graduated from Lowell High School and Western Michigan University, according to supplied material. In his role at ElectionSource, Uzarski was charged with implementing stringent accuracy and reliability testing of the company’s serviced voting systems; developing and implementing election day training programs for poll workers; and maintaining communication between vendors and local election administrators.
“I couldn’t be more excited to continue my work in elections with Kent County, and I look forward to serving the voters by maintaining elections to a standard of integrity set by the professionals before me,” Uzarski said in supplied material. “I will work to further the goals of clerk Lyons by ensuring timeliness, transparency, and accuracy in our elections.”
Macomber said he and Lyons are already seeing positive reaction from local election officials to the hiring of Uzarski.
“Since yesterday’s announcement several local clerks have reached out to clerk Lyons to express support for the decision, excited that Gerrid’s expert knowledge of our new equipment will continue to be of great benefit for the local clerks and the county,” he said.
10-years county contract with state grant paying initially
Uzarski will also be a key player in the continuing relationship between the county and Dominion Voting Systems/ElectionSource.
According to Macomber, in this initial phase of implementation, most of the county’s interactions are with the Dominion team directly, whereas the interaction with ElectionSource will be on election days and over the life of the equipment, when scheduled maintenance and updates need to occur.
The county’s financial contract with Dominion Voting Systems/ElectionSource runs ten years, Macomber explained to WKTV, with years 1–5 (the purchase and initial implementation of the equipment) paid for by state grant through a contact between the State of Michigan and Dominion. The county is then responsible for maintenance of the equipment in years 6–10, in the amount of about $30,000 per year to Dominion.
In order to implement the new equipment, there was also an upfront cost to the county of approximately $130,000, Macomber said. Of that, roughly $110,000 will be paid to Dominion for the computer hardware housed at the county that programs the ballots and receives the results from the precincts on election night. About $20,000 will be paid to ElectionSource for development of the online results reporting feature.