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Halifax County Registrar makes election to retire

After serving as county registrar for two decades, Cluster Springs resident Judy Meeler has decided to call it quits.

The Nov. 5th election will be the last for Meeler who will retire at the end of the year effective Jan. 1.

Meeler said she is retiring to spend more time with her family and to have time to travel.

“I want to spend more time with my husband and granddaughter, maybe travel more and be able to be a full–time parent,” Meeler said.

Meeler the wife of Gilmer Meeler, had one son, Lance Thames, who passed away in 2009. She is now raising her 8-year-old granddaughter, Haley.

The wife, mother and grandmother said she plans to work on a few home projects and become more active in her church and the community upon her retirement.

“I have so many jobs at home that I want to accomplish, and that will keep me busy for several months.  I would like to work maybe two days a week to occupy my mind and stay out in the public sector.  Travel sounds appealing while Haley is out of school and being more active with church and community,” Meeler said in a recent interview.

She plans to remain in Halifax County after her retirement from the registrar’s office.

Upon graduating Mecklenburg Academy in 1973, Meeler achieved certification from courses provided by the Weldon Cooper Center and the Election Center for The General Registrars in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

 For eight years, Meeler worked as the assistant registrar in Halifax County before becoming registrar in July 1993 upon the retirement of Registrar Barbara Cage.

“I was the assistant and felt I would enjoy the job full-time,” Meeler said. 

As registrar, Meeler was responsible for registering voters, keeping track of address changes, removing the deceased and convicted   felons from records, preparing for elections and seeing all is carried out according to the code of Virginia. 

Data entry along with maintaining and testing the equipment for each election and training of election officials prior to each election also are some responsibilities of the county registrar. 

 Over   the   years, Meeler said she has witnessed various changes in voting laws, technology and even the way elections are conducted.

“There is always something new to learn with this job. You have new laws that take place each year, once the General Assembly has completed their session. Technology changes from year to year.  There is always a new version or different program coming out that works better or is quicker,” Meeler said.  “This has created more demands for the registrar and staff over the years.  We have gone from paper ballot and poll books on Election Day to electronic voting machines and poll books.  We went from no ID to showing ID at the polls.”  

She said when she first started as assistant registrar, they would send everything to the State Board of Elections for the data to be keyed; now the data is keyed by local office staff into a statewide program monitored by the State Board of Elections.

Meeler said she kept the job for 20 years because she loved what she was doing, and the friends she has made over the years in the county and her fellow registrars and electoral board members she has befriended across the state is what she will miss the most about her job.

Getting up at 4:15 a.m. in the morning on Election Day is what Meeler said she will miss least about the job. 

The job has taught her to have much faith in people and to learn patience.

 Recalling one of her most memorable moments on the job, Meeler said, “It was my first election, and I was alone at the office when I got my first phone call at a little after 5 a.m. that one of the lever machines was broken.  

“I called my machine technician to go out to the polling place to repair it, and he didn’t answer, I tried several times with no luck, I finally called his home, woke his wife up and found out he had overslept and was on his way.  I was nervous as it was, but this sent my nerves into orbit,” Meeler said. 

If offered a chance to provide advice to the incoming registrar, sahe said she would suggest the next registrar take all the training offered to them through the registrar’s association and the state board of elections and share information with other registrars.

“Experience counts for a lot that education cannot give you in this position, and your long time registrars have a wealth of knowledge that they are more than willing to share,” Meeler said.

She expressed appreciation to her co-workers.

“If it weren’t for them my job would be much harder. They are a great bunch of people, and in some ways we are an extended family that is there for each other.  I will miss them dearly,” Meeler said.