Ehrman honored

Named 2017 Republican Ohio Elections Official of the Year

PHOTO SUBMITTED Secretary of State Jon Husted (left) and Seneca County Board of Elections Director Jim Ehrman pose Tuesday in Columbus after Ehrman was named the 2017 Republican Ohio Elections Official of the Year.

A Seneca County Board of Elections official received an honor this week from Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Elections panel director Jim Ehrman was named the 2017 Republican Ohio Elections Official of the Year at a state conference Tuesday.

Board of elections member David Koehl nominated Ehrman for the award and fellow board members Mike Bridinger, Jim Fruth and Mary Puffenberger signed the nomination.

Koehl said Ehrman, who was hired as deputy director in late 2013 before becoming director in 2016, has two clerks but leads an office that serves more than 34,000 registered voters.

A release from Husted’s office recognized Ehrman for overseeing the creation of a balanced budget and improving financial stewardship.

“Ohio is fortunate to have some of the most dedicated and hardworking elections officials in the country,” Secretary Husted said at the event. “The individuals recognized today are among some of the best and lead by example.”

Koehl said Ehrman was deserving of the award, citing his leadership and ability to recruit poll workers.

“The office budget is one of the lowest in the state based on cost per registered voter or cost per vote cast,” Koehl said. “Prior to his hiring, the office routinely needed supplemental appropriations from the (county) commissioners, but this is now rare. There was high turnover in the staff in the two years before he was hired, but the two clerks he hired in 2014 were still working until one recent retirement.”

Ehrman said he was surprised by the recognition because he was not told he was nominated.

“I felt validated,” he said. “It shows we’re going in the right direction.”

Fruth, the board’s president, said he wasn’t surprised Ehrman won the award.

“Jim is very deserving of the honor,” Fruth said. “Watching him at the office is like watching a scientist in a lab. We are blessed to have Jim’s guidance.”

Ehrman said he spends a lot of time working to improve the organization and make sure elections are fair and transparent.

He said the board has “modernized” technology, changed training policies and improved the election process in the past few years, but he said he and the organization cannot become complacent.

“There’s more to do, there’s more room for growth,” he said.

Ehrman said he was “honored” to receive the award, but said he couldn’t do it without Deputy Director Lori Ritzler, the board members, the staff and poll workers.

“I’m glad I got the award, but everything we do is as a team,” he said. “There’s a whole team doing the work. For me, that’s huge. There’s no way I could’ve won the award without everyone.”

Ehrman said successfully conducting elections doesn’t grab headlines, but it’s a good accomplishment by the board that takes a lot of work.

“If it’s done right, there’s no problems, it’s not news,” he said. “We have been blessed with good (election) audits every time.”

Ehrman said things wouldn’t go as smoothly without the dedication and cooperation of the elections board.

“I’ve got awesome bosses,” he said before referencing a line from Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great:” “You get the right people on the bus, get the wrong people off the bus, get the right people in the right seats … that’s where we’re at right now. It shows in the work we do. We’ve just got to maintain that.”

Koehl said one reason Ehrman received the award is because of his and Ritzler’s work relocating board offices.

“The office space was very cramped and inadequate for many years. Under the previous director and chairman, it was on the agenda every month, with no resolution,” he said. “With Jim as director and a new chairman, we have now moved to a much larger, suitable space.”

Koehl said Ehrman worked with Ritzler, board members, commissioners and an architect to design the space in 2017.

“Jim is a Seneca County native and previously operated his own insurance agency,” Koehl said. “He has a master’s degree in organizational leadership. His vast improvements in the operation of the Seneca County Board of Elections, successful completion of the presidential election and implementation of a new office space make Ehrman the best candidate for Ohio Elections Official of the Year.”

2017 Democratic Ohio Elections Official of the Year award was given to Huron County Board of Elections Director Sharon Locke.