As residents cast their votes at polling stations around San Benito County on Nov. 3, four experienced poll workers had the responsibility of leading their respective teams to ensure a smooth process. BenitoLink caught up with them before the polls closed.
Michael Linthicum led a team at the San Juan Bautista Community Center polling station located at 10 San Jose Street. Linthicum, who served in the United States Army for 29 years, said public service has always been important to him.
“The reason we do it, it’s the same reason all of us do it, and that is to help the local population get the vote out,” said Linthicum, who’s worked the polls for around 10 years. “We’re not for or against anything while we are here in this business. Our business is to get people to vote, to express their opinions.”
Linthicum grew up in the Santa Barbara and Ventura areas. After serving in the military, he lived in San Jose and later moved to San Benito County to “get out of the rat race.”
“We used to come here as often as we could just because we liked the environment down here,” Linthicum said. “There’s some great restaurants, you have a great environment, of course the mission, the arts and crafts fairs.”
Since moving to San Benito County, he’s restarted the community emergency response team (CERT) and instructed for about a decade. He also became a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) training instructor in order to teach disaster preparedness.
After the election, Linthicum is looking forward to seeing his Army Black Knights defeat the Navy in college football when they face off in December.
Craig Parsons led the team at the San Benito County Elections Office at 440 Fifth Street in Hollister. He grew up in San Benito County and has been a volunteer for six elections.
Parsons said volunteering is important for him because he wants to ensure things run smoothly. Additionally, working the polls allows him to understand the process to avoid misconceptions.
“I basically do it so I know how it works and that I can at least say my polling place is run as it should, and safe and fair for everyone,” he said.
While Parsons is not involved in other public service activities, he does enjoy outdoor activities such as cycling and hiking.
Christine Black, Hollister city clerk and an election volunteer since 2012, led the team at the Veterans Memorial Building at 649 San Benito Street in Hollister. She said she volunteers because she wants to do her part to get all votes counted.
“Every vote matters,” Black said. “It helps shape our next two years or four years, depending on the type of election.”
Black grew up in the Bay Area and moved to San Benito County in 1996. She’s volunteered for the Hollister Downtown Association and served on the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.
While she enjoys hiking, Black said she enjoys time with her family the most.
Kevin Stopper led the polling station team at St. Benedicts Church at 1200 Fairview Road in Hollister. He’s worked the last five elections, and said he enjoys community service.
“This election is special,” Stopper said. “There are a lot of people here and it’s good to see a lot of people involved. That’s why I think it’s special.”
Stopper regularly attends San Benito County Board of Supervisors and Hollister City Council meetings. He is also part of the Measure G oversight committee.
“Basically I just like to get involved in stuff in the community and I will find more and more stuff to do,” Stopper said.
A retired truck driver, he said he got to know the area through his deliveries and moved to San Benito County in 1999. His hobbies include cars and sports, though he is finding more he enjoys.
All the captains said they enjoy seeing local youth involved in elections, especially when it comes to seeing the excitement of first time voters.
Black recalled a little boy who came to vote with his family. She helped him with the youth ballot provided by the elections office. As she read a question inquiring about his favorite animal, he responded outside of the provided answers.
“When he did choose it his eyes just lit up and he’s like ‘tiiigeerrr,’” Black said. “It’s little moments like that that let you know this little boy will remember this and probably be a voter for all of his life.”
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