TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - The Smith County Elections Commission voted Tuesday to hire longtime Elections Administrator Denise Hernandez to head Smith County’s Elections Office.
After interviewing two candidates and holding several meetings to discuss the issue, the Elections Commission agreed to hire Hernandez, of Athens, who has been the Henderson County Elections Administrator since 2008.
“There is nothing more important as a foundation to our democracy and government – both locally and nationally – than the integrity of our elections,” Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said. “For almost two years now, improving Elections Administration in Smith County has been a focus of the Commissioners Court. The hire of Denise Hernandez is just another step in that process. We are extremely pleased to add Ms. Hernandez, with her statewide reputation for excellence and her 13 years of experience in Elections Administration, to strengthen the Smith County Elections Office, and to build an elections team that is second-to-none in the state.”
On December 8, the Smith County Commissioners Court created the new position of Chief Deputy Elections Administrator for Smith County. After that meeting, Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran offered the newly-created position to Karen Nelson and she accepted, which created a vacancy in the Elections Administrator position. Since that time, the Smith County Elections Commission has sought out candidates to fill the Elections Administrator vacancy.
The Elections Commission -- made up of Judge Moran, Tax Assessor-Collector Gary Barber, County Clerk Karen Phillips, Democratic Party Chair Michael Tolbert and Republican Party Chair David Stein – is established by statute and is tasked with the authority to hire an Elections Administrator. It has met several times since December in an effort to vet candidates and fill the vacancy, which it did by a unanimous vote on January 26.
Ms. Hernandez is a graduate of Ebbert L. Furr High School in Houston. She began working for Henderson County in 1999, as a property tax bookkeeper. On January 1, 2008, she became the county’s first Elections Administrator. Ms. Hernandez was instrumental in the creation of the office, she said.
She is a Certified Elections Registration Administrator (CERA), since 2019; and a Registered Election Official (REO).
Her objective in serving as the Smith County Elections Administrator will be to “strive for accountability in maintaining public confidence in honest and impartial elections, which will be conducted in a fair, efficient and accurate manner,” she stated in her application.