Assistant elections administrator finds 'second career'

STEVE NASH steve.nash@brownwoodbulletin.com
Larry Franks, assistant elections administrator in the Brown County Elections Office, sits at his desk Friday morning.

"Hi, I'm Larry!"

If you think Larry Franks followed that introduction by saying "This is my brother Daryl and this is my other brother Daryl," you'd be wrong.

It was the 1970s, and the "Larry and the Daryls" trio of the "Newhart" television show was several years in the future.

"Hi, I'm Larry!" Franks said to the attractive woman he'd just met. "Who are you?"

She told him: D'Anne Sawyer. The two began dating, and got married. Today, Larry and D'Anne Franks live in Brookesmith, and  Franks works in the Brown County Elections Office as assistant elections administrator.

Franks has worked in the office for three years. Seated at his desk Friday morning in the elections office — which is  in the Adams Street Community Center — Franks started out talking about matters related to Tuesday's primary elections.

At some urging from a visitor to the office, Franks gave a quick summary of his life, starting with his birth into an Air Force family in Montgomery, Ala.

Franks ended up living in Austin after his parents decided to move there, and that's where Franks finished high school. The move to Austin happened because his late father, George, and his mother, Virginia, had an agreement. When they retired, the elder Franks agreed, they'd move half-way between George Franks' hometown of Seattle, Wash., and hometown of San Antonio.

Franks said his father was puzzled: how was Austin half-way between San Antonio and Seattle?

"Mom said 'Texas math,' and he didn't argue with her," Franks said.

Franks attended Southwestern University in Georgetown, where he earned an accounting degree and became a certified public accountant. Franks went to work for the Lower Colorado River Authority.

Still living in Austin and working for the LCRA, Franks became a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician. As an EMT, Franks worked as part of two-person EMT teams that scattered throughout Memorial Stadium during University of Texas home football games, ready to assist anyone in the stands who might have sudden medical issue.

At one of the games, D'Anne Sawyer was working one one of the  teams. He saw her on a stadium elevator, then hustled to catch up with her later.

"Hi, I'm Larry …"

They dated and married. Franks went on to work for the LCRA for 30 years, where he did "a bunch of things.

"My last function was senior accountant in the fuels accounting department."

After Franks retired from the LCRA, he and his wife moved to Brown County, where D'Anne — who is from Bronte, in Coke County, has family.

"This is my second career," Franks said of his job at the elections office. When asked if he likes his job, Franks replied, "Sure. I'm a numbers person."

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 There will be no talking of politics in the elections office, signs in the office proclaim.

"We have to be non-partisan," Franks said. Sometimes, Franks said, people do come into the office and want to talk about a candidate.

"We'll go 'no-no-no,'" Franks said.

 They can give basic information dealing with voter registration, who's on the ballot, polling location, filing fees and explaining the number of signatures required if a candidate wants to file by petition.

Some people might think elections office employees sit back with their feet propped up when there's no election coming up, Franks said. Not true. There is plenty of work, he said, noting that the office contracts with cities, school districts and the water board for their elections.

And the elections staff still has work to do related to Tuesday's primary including:

• After each election, Franks said, the Secretary of State's office requires counties to perform manual counts from a few precincts to check the manual counts against the machine counts.

For this election, the elections office has been instructed to manually count the boxes from precincts 105, 212 and 214 in the U.S. senator's race, in both the Democratic and Republican primaries.

• The elections office will prepare for the May 27 runoff election, with early voting taking beginning May 19 and ending May 23. 

• The elections office will also be preparing for the May 10 city and school board elections.

Franks talked about the numbers from Tuesday's primaries: 28.5 percent voter turnout in Brown County, up from 26.1 percent in the 2010 primary and 24.8 percent in 2012,

While the 28.5 percent turnout has been touted as strong, Franks had a different take: "I would love to see 90 to 100 percent show up for an election, because I want people to exercise their right to vote," Franks said.

"Let's put it this way: 71.5 percent didn't turn out. Seventy-one percent of the people who could have voted, didn't."

The election itself, though, "was an incredibly smooth election" in Brown County, Franks said. "Voter ID was not an issue."