Maryland’s longest-serving elections director has one last request: there’s a violet on her desk that needs to be watered, and maybe to find a new home.
Thursday is Linda Lamone’s last day on the job. Tuesday was supposed to be her last appearance at the Maryland State Board of Elections but she was conspicuously absent.
“The work that she has done as the first and only administrator…she basically created what we have in Maryland with a statewide system,” said William Voelp, a Republican and vice chair of the Maryland State Board of Elections. “I’m humbled to have worked with her and I’m a better person for being on the board and working with Linda Lamone. I’m sad that she’s not here and that I could tell her that.”
In a phone interview Tuesday, Lamone said she was unable to attend because of a “prior commitment” that could not be rescheduled.
It is a time of change at the board.
In addition to Lamone, Deputy Elections Administrator Nikki Charlson has also left. Charlson was one of two finalists to succeed Lamone along with Jared DeMarinis, the current director of candidacy and campaign finance.
The board voted in June to name DeMarinis as the new administrator. Charlson left the board of elections on Aug. 23 after 20 years to become the deputy administrator of central operations for the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.
“Motor vehicles has gotten a real coup there to get someone as qualified and organized, high aptitude, high-efficiency, high-performance administrator in Nikki Charlson,” Voelp said. “I just think a lot of her and what she does.”
Also leaving the department is Donna Duncan, director of the division of elections management and a 45-year veteran of the state elections agency. Duncan announced earlier this year that she would retire on Oct. 1.
Two other employees — the board’s director of project management and procurement and the audit manager within the candidacy and campaign finance division — have also left to take positions in Prince George’s and Howard County governments respectively.
Lamone announced her retirement in March. She is the state’s first election director, serving more than a quarter-century in the post.
“I had mixed emotions about attending and not being able to attend,” said Lamone. “It’s a difficult time for me because of the passing of my husband and so that made it even more difficult because he wasn’t here.”
Lamone’s husband of 53 years, Rudolph P. “Rudy” Lamone, died unexpectedly earlier this year.
Over the years, Lamone found herself a lightning rod as head of the agency.
“God knows the number of times people have written articles or talked about the end of Linda Lamone,” said Yaakov “Jake” Weissmann, a member of the board. “People have counted her out time and time again but she always stared down those challenges and proved her doubters wrong on some of the biggest stages in this state and in the halls of Congress.”
Lamone said her last few days on the job will be spent cleaning her home office. At the State Board of Elections — as with everywhere else — most employees work remotely, coming into a formal office occasionally if at all.
Lamone plans to go in on Thursday. She hopes to say goodbye to her staff. She will not be at the agency any longer but admits her retirement is a working one.
She will continue to work on the state’s Attorney Grievance Commission, and she’s looking for other opportunities.
“I want to continue to do public service and to the extent that I can,” said Lamone. “And if the governor has a thing that he thinks I can help out with, I’m happy to do that. I guess I have mixed emotions about retiring. I’m really, really going to miss my staff. They’re a very talented group of people that I’m very proud of.”
She’s also looking for someone to adopt the violet that sits on the corner of her desk in her office in Annapolis.
She was given two as an “office warming present” when the board of elections moved into their suite in 1999. One died. The other one, she said, is thriving.
“She’s fine, just blooming away, which is sort of…she didn’t bloom when I was there every day.”
Since the pandemic, a staff member has ensured it’s stayed watered.
Lamone cannot take it home because it is toxic to her cat. If it went home, it would have to live “in a shower stall or something. I can’t do that.”
“So, I hope someone adopts my violet,” she said.