New director of elections board named
Leadership positions are based on party affiliation.
WARREN -- The Trumbull County Board of Elections has a new director, who has chosen a different political party to get the job.
The elections board in a special session Friday accepted the retirement of Norma J. Williams as director effective Jan. 31, and appointed Kelly Pallante to the post.
Friday morning, Pallante finished paperwork changing her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican.
GOP party chairman Craig Bonar, an elections board member, worked with the county prosecutor's office on a statement changing her party affiliation; it was notarized and placed in her personnel file.
Pallante, of Niles, a 21-year employee, had been a systems administrator for the board.
The elections board's directorship is based upon the party affiliation of the Ohio secretary of state. The current secretary, J. Kenneth Blackwell, is a Republican.
The election board's chairmanship, meanwhile, is held by the Democratic Party. The current chairman is Nick Melfi of Girard.
The setup will remain this way depending on who is elected secretary of state in 2006, and until the elections board reorganizes in 2008.
Support from the board
Pallante said she made the decision to change her party affiliation for the opportunity to direct the office.
She thanked the board for its support, and credited the past directors and deputy directors she's worked with -- from both parties -- for their guidance.
"I don't foresee us doing anything different," she said, adding one of her goals is "still having successful and fair elections."
Pallante grew up on a large dairy farm in central Ohio and is a 1979 graduate of Northridge High School, Johnstown. Her husband, Mark, is principal of Niles McKinley High School. They have four children: Maria, 22; Amanda, 20; Anthony, 18; and Kristina, 15. She attended Youngstown State University for two years and studied business and education.
Melfi made special note of the fact that her choice as director was unanimous. The board, too, is made of four members from both parties.
Also a Republican, Williams, of Bristol, said she knew "it was time" to retire.
She began working for the board of elections part time in 1976, going full time as a clerk in 1979. She became the board's secretary in 1983 and was named director in 1998.
A recent widow, Williams plans to spend time with teenage grandchildren, including a granddaughter on a traveling softball team.
"I want to thank you for the service you gave to this board and to the citizens of Trumbull County," Melfi said.
Nettie Ashelman, one of the board members who hired Williams years ago, said her service has always been "impeccable."
"She has earned her retirement," Ashelman said.
In Pallante's hands, "This place will not skip a beat," Williams said.
Pallante and Rokey W. Suleman II, deputy director and a Democrat, both will be paid $51,582 after May 1. Keeping the salaries of the director and deputy equal has always been board practice, Melfi said.
Also Friday, the elections board promoted Jodi Fiorenzo to systems administrator II, Pallante's former job; she'll make $38,954 a year after July. Stephanie Roberts takes Fiorenzo's previous job as a systems administrator at $32,490 annually after July 1.