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Rita Days to be new St. Louis County elections director

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 20, 2011 - Former state Sen. Rita Days, D-Bel Nor, has been hired as St. Louis County's new Democratic elections director.

She plans to attend Tuesday's meeting of the county Election Board, where her selection is expected to announced.

Along with the Republican counterpart, the Democratic elections director oversees county voting procedures -- from registrations through vote-counting and maintenance of equipment.

Under Missouri's system, the elections director of the same party as the governor actually calls the shots -- so Days will wield most of the power over day-to-day operations. The Republican elections director is Joseph Goeke, a former judge who ran operations while Republican Matt Blunt was governor.

Oversight of St. Louis County's elections operations is key since the county has the largest bloc of registered voters in the state.

The county Election Board voted in closed-session in May to hire Days but has yet to make her selection public. She formally begins her job on July 11.

Days replaces Joe Donahue, who is leaving July 8. Donahue quietly submitted his resignation in April, also during the board's closed session. Donahue has been the Democratic elections director since 2007 and has been in charge of the county's operations since early 2009, when fellow Democrat Jay Nixon became governor.

Donahue, 76, currently is in the hospital after surgery late last week. He said in a telephone interview late today that he was retiring, and he praised Days' selection to succeed him. Donahue said he is in talks with the state Department of Labor over a job as a labor liaison but emphasized that nothing is firm.

Since January, Days has been working as a special assistant to county Executive Charlie Dooley, with an annual salary of just over $58,000. She will make more than twice that amount in her new job, which pays close to $119,000.

Because of term limits, Days retired from the state Senate last Dec. 31, after serving eight years. She earlier served just under eight years in the state House.

Days said in an interview this afternoon that she is excited about her new job. She noted that she had served as chairman of the House committee in charge of elections while in the state House.

"I just want to make sure the elections in St. Louis County are conducted fairly,'' Days said, "and to make sure that those who are registered and wish to vote, and those eligible to register, are able to do so."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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