PHOTO COURTESY OF galtmile
FORT LAUDERDALE — When Florida’s former Gov. Jeb Bush made an executive decision in 2003 to remove Broward County’s then supervisor of elections Miriam Oliphant, as controversial allegations of neglect and incompetence surfaced concerning the office, Brenda C. Snipes had no idea she would be asked to consider the position.
However, that’s just what happened. Subsequently, Bush appointed Snipes to the position. In November, Snipes will have been on the job for 12 years and is reportedly credited with bringing the supervisor of elections office back to highly regarded operational standards. She said that leadership skills, organization and teamwork have been key in the successful turnaround of the Broward County office.
Snipes said that cleaning the rolls and getting the records up to date will be a priority for 2015, so that when the county is actually involved in voting, they will have the most accurate information that they can possibly have. “My goals for 2015 are to do some strategic planning, so that we can have good elections as an outcome,” she said, “making sure we are cleaning our rolls, and we’re following all the guidelines that the state has sent down for us in sort of a non-major Election year.” A major election year most certainly included the presidential race for the White House in 2000. Marred in controversy, Republican candidate George W. Bush narrowly defeated Democratic candidate Al Gore, who was vice president at the time. Florida was a key voting state in that decision. Broward County, among other counties in the state, was heavily criticized for missteps concerning voters and votes counted, which may have cost the Democrats the bid for the White House. Oliphant was the Broward County supervisor of elections from 2001 to 2003. In 2003, she was suspended from the position as supervisor of elections by then Gov. Jeb Bush, who some political pundits have speculated may run for president as a Republican candidate in 2016. Reportedly, Oliphant had been critical of Bush’s administration. Bush said at the time when he suspended Oliphant in a letter to the state senate president Jim King, that he was aware of the constitutional grounds for removing an elected official as being “rightfully high,” according to a CNN.com report. “…the repeated and continuing failures of Miriam Oliphant to properly manage her office and take the most basic preparatory steps for the conduct of elections and the substantial likelihood for greater harm going forward make it clear that Ms. Oliphant can no longer serve as supervisor of elections for Broward County,” he wrote, according to the CNN site.
Snipes, a Democrat, was appointed to the position by Bush after Oliphant was removed. She said that taking over the position after the previous supervisor was ousted took a particular mindset in order to achieve success. “First I had to get a mindset for me. I’m going into a situation that has been publicly displayed as having issues,” she said. “But I didn’t really focus on continuing a negative perspective on the office. I knew that if things were so serious, that our supervisor was removed and I was asked to come in and take her position that things must have really been in need of great repair.” Snipes said that she identified problem areas in the office before she attempted to correct anything. “I set about getting to know what (were the problems that existed),” she said. “And then figure out what we needed to do to correct those things.”
Before retiring from the educational system in 2003, Snipes worked for the Broward County School District as an educator and administrator, which included holding the position of area director where she was responsible for leading principals at 16 schools and centers.
Snipes said that she incorporated skills that she had acquired working in the school system and she applied them to her newly appointed position. “I had the task of righting the ship at an elementary school that was in dire straits and needed to be fixed and it needed to be fixed really quickly,” she said. “So, we managed to get in and get that turned around.” Snipes said that utilizing some of the same strategies to help reestablish the supervisor of elections office helped her to achieve that goal. “I found out what the key functions were, who the key players were and I immediately established a communication system,” she said. “And that was to put in place what I call a “leadership team:” Leadership team, meaning that these are the people that are responsible for conducting certain functions. And when you bring all the functions together successfully, then you have a successful operation.”
Her office still uses those principles and they seem to be working very well, according to Snipes. She said that multitasking has become a key component in the daily operations of the supervisor of elections office. Snipes said that it is important to remain efficient to be effective because many areas needed to be overhauled when she took over as the supervisor of Broward County elections.
Part II of Supervisor Snipes Ascension, next week.