Washington Countyâ€™s longest serving Supervisor of Elections Carol Finch Rudd will serve her final day on July 31, retiring from the position she has held since 1996.
Rudd began her career in Washington County in 1991 when she went to work for then Clerk of Court, Ernestine Miller. In 1994, Rudd began her time in the Supervisor of Elections Office under Toogie Mitchell. Mitchell took Rudd under her wing, training her for the job she would go on to hold for 27 years.
When Mitchell decided to retire shortly before the 1996 election, she wrote a letter to then Governor Lawton Chiles, strongly recommending that Rudd be appointed in her place, a recommendation Gov. Chiles acted upon, appointing Rudd and beginning her nearly 30 years of leadership in that role.
In 1996, Rudd was elected after winning both primaries and the General Election that November. Rudd has since set a record as the only Constitutional Officer in the county to be elected seven times in a row. She also has the distinction of being the second longest serving Supervisor of Elections in the stateâ€™s history, second only to Orange Countyâ€™s Bill Cowles, who has served for 33 years.
Rudd says she owes a lot to the mentors who helped when she first started out
â€œHere I was, the new kid on the block at 26-years-old, and I was elected to this office,â€ said Rudd. â€œI had some great people mentoring me: Pat Hollarn from Okaloosa County, Sylvia Stevens from Jackson County, and my biggest mentor of all, Terry Vaughn from Bradford County. I learned from the best and have made many true friendships throughout my career.â€
Rudd says the experience has helped her grow personally and professionally while allowing her to interact with her community in a meaningful way.
â€œI have always loved people but was usually pretty reserved,â€ she said. â€œI had to learn how to come out of my shell. When I took the oath of office, it was with the purpose to serve my community. A lot of good memories have been made while we were out being a part of our community at the Watermelon Festival, school events and Trunk or Treats to name a few. Being a part of this community has been such an amazing blessing.â€
Coming from humble roots, Rudd says her daddy was a big part of her first election.
â€œMy daddy campaigned so hard for me during that first election, she said. â€œHe was so proud of me. I lost him during the 2000 Presidential election. That was one of the hardest things to go through.â€
Rudd is leaving her office after dealing with serious health issues over the last few years. Having had major surgery in April, Rudd says she is feeling much better but is taking that as â€œa second chance at life from God.â€ After losing both her parents and her brother while holding office, Rudd says she is going to take advantage of living her best life.
â€œI have missed so many things throughout my career,â€ Rudd said. â€œI want to enjoy the life I have left with traveling and spending time with my grandbabies and my family.â€
The most important thing Rudd wants people to know is how much she will miss everyone.
â€œI am so thankful and grateful for the opportunity to serve my community,â€ she said. â€œThank you for having faith in and electing me to serve you over the last 27 years.â€
Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to appoint someone to serve as Washington County Supervisor of Elections soon â€“ a moment that will have Rudd coming full circle as she makes a recommendation for her successor, just as Toogie Mitchell did all those years ago.
Rudd says she recommended her assistant and finance clerk, Wendy Mayo, to fill the role when she submitted her letter of resignation to Governor Ron DeSantis.