Get To Know The Candidate : Mark Earley

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What brings you to Tallahassee?

I first visited Tallahassee in 1980, when I was visiting my aunt and uncle here before starting a trip across the country with them. I was 16 at the time, and even then I knew Tallahassee was a special place. I moved to Tallahassee permanently in mid-September of 1986. I was 22 and I was coming to restart my college education. My first job was working part time at the elections warehouse helping to prepare voting machines for the 1986 elections. I went on to earn my mechanical engineering degree from the FAMU/FSU College of Engineering while working for the elections office. I loved my job and community so much that I stayed here and made Tallahassee my home and elections my life’s work.
What do you want visitors and locals to know about Tallahassee that they may not already know?

I think most visitors come to Tallahassee because of government related work or for education or football games, or as a waypoint for traveling to the coast. But Tallahassee is a remarkable destination in its own right. One wonderful aspect of our community is the natural setting that surrounds us. You cannot travel through our town without noticing that we live in a forest. We have beautiful parks and canopy roads, and a sense of the natural world pervades every part of Tallahassee. Tallahasseeans also appreciate our special local history that is first sensed in the many wonderful names such as Tallahassee, Apalachee, Leon, Seminole, and of course the Indian Head neighborhood with its many Nenes. I love these ties to the past and our natural heritage, and how our appreciation of that history guides our community as we thoughtfully grow our town into the future. But what sets us apart, and the reason we have managed to preserve and carry forward that sense of nature and history is our wonderful, diverse, talented, and involved people. Our citizens truly care for each other, and we want to make a positive difference in the lives of our neighbors. It is a joy to live here.
How has Tallahassee evolved over the years?

Tallahassee and Leon County have certainly grown over the 30+ years I have made this my home. But the unique quality of that growth, and the way in which we have maintained a friendly small town feel even as we function as the modern capital city of Florida is what sets us apart.
What made you want to run for office?

I have served my entire adult life in elections, working with Ion Sancho for the people of Tallahassee and Leon County. Elections are a part of me, I love what I do, and I have learned from the best. I love my role in ensuring our community can take part in our democracy with confidence that each individual voice will be heard, and that each voice will be protected from the manipulations of politics and from mismanagement of the elections process.

This is not an idle fear. I have seen communities impacted by bad elections firsthand. People lose faith that they have a say in government, so they don’t vote, they don’t participate. Communities reflect the temperament and mindset of the people. When people feel powerless and disenfranchised, the community suffers. So, good elections are very personal to me and they are a vital component to the Tallahassee and Leon County that I love. I believe my experience and deep knowledge of all aspects of elections make me uniquely qualified to hold the position of Supervisor of Election, and to serve our community faithfully and well. I will be ready to lead this office from day one.
What are your goals if elected?

In a basic sense, my chief goal is to maintain and build on the trust our community now has in the elections process. There are many parts to doing this effectively.

Voter outreach and education are vital to keeping people informed and involved. We must stay actively involved in the communities and the schools, listening to the concerns of our neighbors and teaching our children about the importance of participating in their neighborhoods and in their government. This participation is most critically accomplished through voting. So, one goal of mine is to build upon our great involvement in the community and our schools.

Another goal is to maintain the great strides we have made in accessibility to the voting process. I have a long history of leadership in making voting accessible to all citizens, and doing so in a manner that preserves the secrecy of the ballot. To do this effectively requires understanding the special needs of every member of our community, the multitude of technologies that are available to serve our voters with special needs, and valuing each of those members in the same way. That is why I am committed to continuing and improving our long partnership with Disability Rights Florida, the National Federation of the Blind, our assisted living facilities (ALFs), our senior centers, and our retirement communities to improve their voting experience. That is why I have been a leader in providing online ballot delivery to our military service members and their families overseas. That is why we purchased our new voting system that incorporates ADA voting capabilities in one complete package. And that is why I will continue to stress the importance of serving every member of our community, regardless of their special challenge, in an equitable, courteous, and fair manner.

But participation in a system that is poorly managed is short-lived and pointless, and people naturally respond negatively to that. That is why my knowledge of the details of what make elections function well, and my experience in helping other elections offices recover from technical mistakes or errors in judgment is so important. You cannot effectively manage that which you do not know. You cannot listen to a team of experts who frequently disagree, and make good decisions without knowing as much as they do about each part of their job. That is what I bring to the table. My thirty years of experience in all aspects of the elections process, successfully working through very challenging times, demonstrates that I can be trusted to manage your elections office at the same high level of satisfaction to which you are accustomed.

So my final goal is to focus my experience, judgment, and leadership skills on the task of keeping Leon County Elections the best in the state and nation. Florida has been through a lot over the 30 years I have worked in elections. Yet our office has been uniquely successful over that time. I want to continue the work I love, and continue to serve the voters of Leon County in the best traditions that Ion and I have established over these many years.
What social media do you use?

Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin
Describe Tallahassee in 5 words or less

Involved, caring, generous, vibrant community.

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