Every day brings new allegations of the sleazy behavior of people in public life. Things are different here.
On Monday, December 11, Goochland County celebrated the career of Frances Carter Ragland, who retires at the end of 2017. During her 25 year tenure as General Registrar, Ragland safeguarded the most precious rite of the American system—the vote—to ensure honest, fair, and impartial elections.
The new parking lot in front of the county administration was filled with cars of friends and associates who came from near and far to pay tribute to Ragland.
|Filling the boots of Frances Ragland will be a daunting task.|
Ned Creasey, District 3, Chair of the Goochland Board of Supervisors, offered opening remarks:
“We gather here to pay tribute to Frances Ragland, who has been the gatekeeper of the most previous thing we have—our vote—since March, 1992. This is not an easy task. She is a jewel. In addition to her duties as registrar, Frances has also been an active fire-rescue volunteer with Courthouse Company 5 as an emergency medical technician and running its yard sales. We wish her well.”
A resolution, unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors at its December 5 meeting unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors reads as follows:
WHEREAS, it is the desire of the Goochland County Board of Supervisors to give well deserved acknowledgement and recognition to Ms. Frances Carter Ragland who has rendered exemplary service to the citizens of Goochland County; Goochland County Departments, State and local Electoral Boards, State and local elected officials, Monacan Soil and Water Conservation District and others;
WHEREAS, Ms. Frances Ragland, after serving as an assistant to the then Goochland County Attorney, was employed as Assistant Voter Registrar in 1985; and WHEREAS, on March 1, 1992, Ms. Frances Ragland was appointed Voter Registrar to succeed Helen Dunn, and has served the voters of Goochland County with the utmost distinction for 32 years;
WHEREAS, Ms. Frances Ragland supervised seven Presidential Primaries, seven Presidential Elections, seven Gubernatorial Elections, fourteen House of Delegates elections, and countless elections for County Supervisors, Clerk of the Court, Sheriff, Treasurer, Commissioner of the Revenue, School Board, Monacan Soil and Water Conservation District, political party primaries, special elections for vacancies and the only audit of Optical Scan Ballot tallies ever approved by the State Board of Elections — an audit of hand-counted ballots that proved machine results to be 100% accurate;
WHEREAS, Ms. Frances Ragland established a sterling reputation among her fellow General Registrars, and especially among employees, and successive directors of the State Department of Elections in Richmond, for rigid adherence to the rule of law established by the Code of Virginia, despite all relaxed interpretations or suggested “alternate” procedures;
WHEREAS, Ms. Frances Ragland has burnished a reputation among Goochland County political party chairs, and candidates, for strict dedication to election laws, candidate deadlines and financial reporting that has eliminated the need for fines and penalties for late filings;
WHEREAS, Ms. Frances Ragland directed the creation and organization of the first Central Absentee Precinct in 2003 which provided for Absentee Ballots to be counted in one location, rather than at individual precincts on election night after close of polls;
WHEREAS, Ms. Frances Ragland oversaw the change from Mechanical-Lever voting machines to Touchscreen DRE voting machines and then to Optical Scan paper ballot voting;
WHEREAS, Ms. Frances Ragland implemented Electronic Poll Books in every precinct, which greatly increased the efficiency of elections and reduced the time voters spend in line waiting to cast their ballots;
WHEREAS, Ms. Frances Ragland participated in and orchestrated three decennial redistricting’s of the county’s five magisterial districts, and now ten polling precincts;
WHEREAS, over the course of a quarter century, Ms. Frances Ragland personally taught, trained, improved, and inspired eight previous political party partisans to become impartial, non-partisan and effective Electoral Board members;
WHEREAS, Ms. Frances Ragland has created, encouraged, and sustained a culture of civic virtue that continues to inspire Goochland voters to achieve the highest percentage turnout of active voters among all jurisdictions in the Commonwealth.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Goochland County Board of Supervisors, on behalf of the citizens of Goochland County, hereby commends, recognizes, appreciates, and sincerely thanks Ms. Ragland for her exemplary and unremitting dedication and service to Goochland County and offers her best wishes for a well-earned and happy retirement.
The positive environment for civic engagement at the polls nurtured by Ragland encouraged and inspired Goochland voters to the highest percentage turnout of active voters among all jurisdictions in the Commonwealth of Virginia for many elections, especially presidential ones.
Robin Lind, current secretary of the Goochland Electoral Board, said that Ragland trained many electoral board members to be impartial servants of the people. “This is a day of joy mingled with sadness,” Lind said. “Frances has been the rock upon which we based our foundation. She is self-effacing and lives the ideals of duty, trust, integrity, patriotism, and non-partisanship.”
Ragland, Lind said, is persistent, detail oriented, and follows all election law in the Code of Virginia to the letter. Her reputation for adhering to the letter of proper electoral procedure was such that people on the State Board of Elections in Richmond “did not relish a call from Goochland.”
“We are not likely to see a public servant like this again in our lifetimes,” Lind declared. “If we can emulate the civic virtue of Frances Ragland, we will achieve the highest standard that can be attained.”
Ever self-effacing, Ragland briefly thanked everyone for attending the event and their good wishes.
Heywood Pace, who was active in the 2011 redistricting after the last census, said that Ragland and her staff were always generous with their time in dealing with him. “I always left her office feeling good about our discussions.” He noted that during her tenure in office, Ragland presided over the election of the first African-American Governor of Virginia; first African-America President; and the first presidential election with a woman candidate.
Dr. Clara Belle Wheeler, Vice Chair of the SBE said that Ragland brought integrity and honesty to the job of registrar and is a firm supporter of the Code of Virginia. She helped voters who needed guidance properly and correctly. “When I needed an honest assessment of real world conditions, I called Frances,” Wheeler recalled. “We need people with her strength of character in the election world. She leaves big boots to fill.”
Lind has said that it will be impossible to replace Ragland. The search is on for her successor, someone well-acquainted with Virginia election procedures. Finding the next Goochland registrar will be a daunting task indeed.
May the next half of Frances Ragland’s life be filled with joy and laughter.