New Elections Administrator Explains Her Relationship With John Wiley Price and Talks About the Ousting of Her Predecessor
Newly appointed Elections Administrator Toni Pippens-Poole in her office at the Elections Department.
Photos by Sam Merten
As you likely know by now, longtime Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbet retired last month after, as he claims, Commissioner John Wiley Price told him that he had been in the position far too long. Sherbet also says Price even handed him a letter of resignation for him to sign.
At an Elections Commission meeting scheduled prior to Sherbet's announcement and held shortly afterward, Assistant Elections Administrator Toni Pippens-Poole was appointed as his replacement by a 4-1 vote, with only Dallas County Republican Party chair Jonathan Neerman dissenting.
On Tuesday, a vote by the commissioners court to retain Sherbet as a consultant failed by a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Maurine Dickey and Mike Cantrell voting in favor.
Both votes had Democrats in support of Pippens-Poole and Republicans fighting for Sherbet. Meanwhile, Sherbet gained support from folks of all political persuasions wearing "I Support Bruce" T-shirts.
Yet, somehow in all this mess, no one has interviewed Pippens-Poole, who was given the assistant job by Sherbet when he was named elections administrator in 1987. That is, until now.
You've got to feel like you're in a bad position given all the political wrangling with Mr. Sherbet. How has that affected you?
Well, I've been working with Bruce for the last 24 years, and I don't want to take anything away from his reign as being the elections administrator. I didn't have anything to do with what happened, but eventually I was given the responsibility of administering the Elections Department, and that's exactly what I'm going to move forward and do.
I'm just going to continue to do what I've always done in the Elections Department, which is to make sure that we have fair and honest elections run since I started 24 years ago. What took place with Mr. Sherbet, that's completely between the [Elections] Commission, Mr. Sherbet and the commissioners court.
How did you and Mr. Sherbet know each other?
Through mutual friends. I understood that there was a position available. I've worked with other organizations. I've worked with public relations and am very interested in that.
When Bruce was telling me about the position, it was more personnel, getting involved in elections, working with the election judges, training, and that's something I was really involved with, mostly in the private sector rather than the public sector. I came directly from the private sector, so it was a little challenging because I came from real restrictive rules and regulations in the private sector as opposed to what was generally happening in the public sector. It was a good transition, and especially with Mr. Sherbet. We kind of grew together in the job.
Is there part of you that's a bit disappointed with what happened to Mr. Sherbet since you worked together for 24 years?
Truly, truly I would have to say that, yeah. But I understand what took place. I understand just from reading because I'm not there in the discussions. I don't know what the facts are. I'm reading just like any other citizen is reading.
I'm just gonna have to go with what's been given to me -- the responsibility. I really don't have any comment on how that took place. I just feel for Mr. Sherbet because, like I said, I can't take anything away from what he's done all these years. He's real popular, and that he should be. And I appreciate what he has done. I really do.
How do you evaluate his tenure overall? Would you say he's top of the rung?
Well, certainly. And, like I said, I can't take anything from Mr. Sherbet and what he's done. I can't take anything from the legacy he wanted to have, and I personally can't take anything away from him.
As you said, you've been reading along with the coverage. There's a perception that Judge Jenkins and Mr. Price were working behind the scenes to put you in Mr. Sherbet's position. Did you have any discussions with them prior to what happened with Mr. Sherbet?
No. None whatsoever.
No discussions whatsoever, and why do people say that? I can't explain what they think. Not at all. Didn't have any prior discussions with either of them.
How would you describe your relationship with Mr. Price?
[Pauses.] [Laughs.] My relationship with him? As far as a commissioner, he's a fantastic commissioner just like the other commissioners are. I haven't worked with the county judge or any of the other new commissioners, but I've worked with Commissioner Cantrell and Commissioner Dickey. We've worked well together, and I hope we continue to do so. [Laughs.]
You wouldn't describe your relationship to Mr. Price as anything other than a working relationship?
You don't see him out of this realm?
Well, yeah. There are activities that we may see each other at in the community. I go to community functions, and so, that's it.
I guess what I'm getting at is there's this notion that you're tight-knit buddies with him ...
Like I said, I can't explain what people say. That's something that you'd have to ask them. Yeah, yeah, we're friends, and we've seen each other at social gatherings, community events. I receive Christmas cards and stuff like that, but he sends them to all his constituents.
So you consider him a friend?
Yeah, I hope so. I hope I can consider all the commissioners my friends. I sure do.
But the notion that you have a special relationship that would lead to him leading an effort to oust Mr. Sherbet ...
I've already explained that to you. There was no behind the scenes. Whoever's telling you that, you need to find out from them. There's no big conspiracy. I've been working here 24 years. Look at my office. Does this look like a conspiracy to you? I'm just doing what I've always been doing.
What do you plan to do differently from Mr. Sherbet?
Like I said, that's something that I can't take away from Mr. Sherbet. I definitely want to do that, but, like I said, what I'm going to continue to do in this position is what I've always done, which is to work very hard and maintain the integrity of the elections, and I'm going to work for all the voters in Dallas County -- not just one segment, not just one party.