Interim Macon-Bibb County elections supervisor named

Bibb County’s first Black elections supervisor, Jeanetta Watson, resigned effective Jan. 21.


Liz Fabian

Macon-Bibb County elections officer Tom Gillon, center, demonstrates how to operate voting machines at the board of elections office in this file photo. Gillon is the interim elections supervisor following Jeanetta Watson’s retirement.

The Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections announced during its Thursday meeting that Tom Gillon will serve as interim elections supervisor in the wake of the resignation of Jeanetta Watson.

Gillon, a 1992 graduate of Mercer University, currently serves as the county’s elections officer after joining the staff full-time in 2013 following stints as a seasonal tech and temporary early voting worker.  He has spent the past nine years at the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections performing varied tasks under Watson’s direction.

“Tom has been here for a long time and has worked in almost every facet of the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections,” said Darius Maynard, chairman of the board. “We are very confident in his ability to lead us in the next couple of months while we conduct the search to find a new elections supervisor.”

“I’d like to say welcome aboard, Tom. Good luck,” board member Herb Spangler said.

“Figuratively, I have very large shoes to fill,” Gillon replied. “I appreciate your support.”

Watson thanked the board and staff for their support since she came to work at the board of elections in 2007. She became its first Black supervisor in 2013.

“You are professional, hit the ground running, diffused a lot of fires burning here locally,” Watson told the board and staff.  “It’s been a very challenging time, but I like to hope to think that I did rise to the occasion… even against all the opposition our office faced.”

Watson announced in her Jan. 5 letter of resignation that she made a “very difficult decision” to leave, but cited her reasons as the excessive workload, rapidly changing election laws and policies, complicated new procedures and overwhelming stress.

She encouraged Gillon to reach out to her in the coming days and to connect with other elections supervisors in the 12-county region.

“He’s not just left alone. We care for each other and we do take care of each other the best we can. I think you can do it. I think you’ll be great,” Watson told Gillon as she gave the board her final report.

Board attorney William Nolan explained the legal process to choose Watson’s successor. The board will make a recommendation to the mayor and county commissioners, who will have to approve the selection. If their nominee is rejected, they will have to identify another candidate, Nolan said.

Board member Mike Kaplan noted that Gillon has served as a poll manager, coordinated and trained poll managers and poll workers, oversaw the organization of polling supplies, helped voters navigate the new voting machines and tracked financial accounting of candidates running for office.

Gillon said his “elections officer” title maybe unique to Bibb County, but he’s also trained on Geographical Information Systems, or GIS,  mapping software and produces various maps for the office.

He’s also worked alongside Chief Registrar Veronica Seals in preparing and cataloguing elections materials to be sent to the Secretary of State’s Office.

As interim supervisor, Gillon will manage the office and handle public relations. He’ll also make sure all the office’s time-sensitive tasks are accomplished and will be staying up to date on election law and policy changes

Kaplan said Gillon’s experience is crucial given the next election is about four months away.

Voters will be choosing candidates for governor and U.S. Senate in the May 24 General Election Primary. That same day, some Bibb countians also will fill seats on the Bibb County School Board, Macon Water Authority and select two state court judges and a magistrate court judge in the Nonpartisan General Election.

-Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.