ROCKINGHAM — Two leading ladies from Leath Memorial Library have traded books for ballots, both taking new jobs with the Richmond County Board of Elections.
Shannon Hearne and Debbie Knight were sworn in Wednesday morning as the new director and deputy director, respectively.
Both Hearne and Knight said after years at the library, they were looking for a career change.
“When I saw this position come open, I knew it was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass by,” Hearne said.
Hearne left her job as supervisor at Leath Memorial after 11 years and replaces Connie Kelly, who recently retired after 27 years at the helm. Kelly’s final duty was last Friday, overseeing canvassing of the ballots from the primary election on May 17.
Knight said she felt she had potential that wasn’t being used and, at her age, “if I was going to make a change, it was time to make the change.”
Starting as a book-shelver at the age of 14, Knight has spent more than 40 years off and on with the library system, most recently as the outreach coordinator.
“There was a standing joke with me and Shannon that if she left, she had to take me with her,” Knight said. “So when she left, I thought … it may be time … and it just happened that this job was exciting … so I applied for it.”
“She was the most qualified and she interviewed the best,” Hearne added. “We’re glad to have her.”
Both have had quite the learning curve in their new jobs. Hearne was hired and began learning the ropes in mid-April. Knight’s first day was the day before the primary.
“So I got my feet really wet, really quick and learned a whole bunch in a short period of time,” Knight said.
Hearne and Knight said Kelly, the part-time employees — especially Travis Parks — and the board members have been helpful in getting her up to speed in the new position.
“Even during the stress of the election, it still was such a wonderful, cooperative environment — everyone working together — and you didn’t have any arguing … no pettiness, I mean, everyone was working together for that common goal and it was so nice to see that,” Hearne said.
The most challenging aspect of the transition, Hearne said, has been “going from a job where I knew everything — or knew almost everything — to one where I’m learning every day.”
But it’s also been one of the best things because it’s kept me busy and … I needed the challenge,” Hearne added.
Both say they still love the library and Hearne said she has offered to help.
“It has been nice working with someone that I already have a cooperative working relationship with,” Hearne said. “Because she knows how I do things, I know how she does things and that’s been helpful.”