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NC Board of Elections recommends salary increase for executive director

The State Board of Elections wants its new executive director to start her tenure with a raise.

Members voted unanimously Thursday to recommend a salary of $140,000 for Karen Brinson Bell, who will take over at the agency June 1. Kim Strach, who has been at the helm for just over six years currently makes $110,762. The new salary is contingent on approval by the Office of State Human Resources.

Democrats on the five-member State Board ousted Strach last week in an effort, they said, to steer the agency’s focus to election administration ahead of 2020. Republicans had pushed to keep Strach in the position, but were out-voted.

Board Chairman Bob Cordle said when he first took over his role, he was surprised after talking to staff to find out how much Strach made.

“I thought it was horribly underpaid and that she has been for some time,” he said.

He asked Josh Lawson, general counsel for the State Board, to look into salaries and how they might seek an increase for the executive director. Lawson told members for context that the Mecklenburg County elections director made about $30,000 more than Strach.

“Our executive director ought to make at least a similar amount of money as the director of Mecklenburg County,” Cordle replied, proposing that she make $135,000 per year.

Republican member David Black amended that proposal to $140,000 because he thought Strach earned it given the events of the past several months — primarily the absentee ballot fraud investigation in the 9th congressional district.

Lawson told Board members it was highly likely the salary increase would be approved.

Lawson turned in his resignation to align with Strach’s departure. The State Board also voted unanimously Thursday to designate Katelyn Love as acting general counsel, effective at the close of business May 31.

Love joined the agency as special counsel in 2016 and was promoted to the position of deputy general counsel in 2017, according to a news release. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University School of Law. She previously served as associate counsel at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The State Board also certified the results of the 3rd congressional district primary election, which was held April 30, and unanimously set a one-stop early voting plan for Greene County for the second primary in the same district.

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