I. In Focus This Week
Lifelong passion for process leads to elections job
At 21, William Nesbitt takes charge of Danville, Ill. elections
While most college seniors are busy making plans for spring break first and graduation and life after college second, University of Illinois, Springfield senior William Nesbitt has his mind on other things.
Nesbitt is planning to conduct his first election as the director of elections for Danville, Illinois.
Nesbitt, 21, officially started on January 20 and has been busy at work since day one.
“I got so excited last week when we first got our ballots,” Nesbitt said. “I like that am I able to see the progress towards each election from start to finish. Being the executive director of the Danville Election Commission is a very unique type of public service.”
Nesbitt may not be the youngest ever, or even currently the youngest chief election official in the country, but for him, applying for the Danville job wasn’t about being the youngest, it was about working in his community and doing a job he knew he could.
“The main reason I applied for the job was because I felt like I had the qualifications to do the job,” Nesbitt said. “I am also from the Danville area and I wanted to be able to stay in the community. I love this community and I thought this would be a perfect fit for me.”
Nesbitt wasn’t even sure if he was going to get the job or not when he applied, but in addition to a passion for the process, he knew he had at least one thing going for him.
“I previously worked in the Illinois House of Representatives and was able to get two letters of recommendation, one from a Republican and one from a Democrat,” Nesbitt said. “That showed that I have the ability to work with anyone.”
The commissioners that hired Nesbitt are confident in his ability to get the job done.
"This is a pretty complex job, and this is a person who is ready for that,” Commissioner Bar Bailey told The News Gazette. "He's a young man with lots of energy and lots of enthusiasm. I think it's going to work well."
So far, other than the delicate balance of juggling 17 credit hours of college coursework and a 40+-hour per week job, Nesbitt said things are going well.
He said he’s spent a lot time learning the election code and about all the various equipment that the elections office uses. He said he was genuinely surprised about the vast array of technology that the office uses. He noted that working in the elections office is different every day and that keeps him excited about coming to work each morning.
And he’s enjoyed getting to know his colleagues.
“The best part, so far, has been working with the staff in the office,” Nesbitt said. “There are two other employees in the office and they have been wonderful to work with. We are a great team together and I think we will provide the best service to the voters of Danville.”
While he is busy learning the established system and practices and policies in the elections office he’s already thinking ahead to future including purchasing new voting machines — like many jurisdictions the city’s machines are about 10 years old — purchasing more e-pollbooks and making voter-friendly advances to the elections website.
He’s also looking forward to engaging more of his peers in the process. Millennials have a reputation of not voting and Nesbitt his hoping to change that.
“Sometimes, voters my age do not think about how government affects them personally. I have been going to local high schools and our local community college to educate them about the electoral process,” Nesbitt said. “I think interaction is a great way to get voters my age involved.”
As for Nesbitt, he has always had a passion for the elections process.
“It [registering to vote] was the first thing I did when I turned 18. I have grown up in a household that has always stressed the importance of being educated about elections and who is running,” Nesbitt said.
He fondly recalls going to the polls with his father when he was a child and his dad showing him the ballot and talking to him about candidates.
It was also his dad who made his first voting experience extra special.
“The first time I voted was in March of 2012 and my father, Chuck Nesbitt, was actually on the ballot running for the Vermilion County Board,” Nesbitt said. “So, my very first voting experience is very memorable for me because I was able to vote for my dad and he ended up winning the election.”
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