voter stickers
A sheet of voter stickers. MNLA.com photo by Stephanie Rivera.

Orange County conducted a national search to replace its registrar of voters and ended up hiring a next-door neighbor, of sorts, the county’s chief executive said Monday.

Bob Page, San Bernardino County’s registrar of voters, will take over for Neal Kelley, who is set to retire in March.

“It does really feel like he’s totally committed and excited to be here and build on Neal’s legacy,” Orange County CEO Frank Kim said of Page. “That’s a great way to start.”

Kelley told City News Service that he was “looking forward to a smooth transition and working toward the continued success of the department.”

Page has been the registrar in San Bernardino County for three years, and Kelley has been in charge of Orange County elections for about 18 years, he said.

“My experience with him has been very positive,” Kelley said of Page. “We’ve worked together on several state issues. It will be nice to have a little overlap with him to show him the ropes and provide a smooth transition. That’s the main thing for me.”

Kelley worked in the photo industry previously and it was “total happenstance” that he ended up running the county’s elections.

Page will start work in Orange County on Feb. 25. Kelley will retire on March 10.

Page will take over the fifth-largest voting base in the country with about 1.8 million registered voters.

“I am committed to ensuring all eligible citizens in Orange County continue to have access to the election process so their voices can be heard as voters and candidates,” Page said. “Neal developed and fostered an outstanding team and operation. The registrar of voters will carry on its successful tradition of conducting transparent, accurate and fair elections.”

Kim noted that Kelley was instrumental in guiding the county through two major advances in voting during his tenure.

“Neal’s been fantastic for us during a time when we were transitioning from polling locations to voting centers, and implementing the first electronic voting system,” Kim said.

“All of those things can unnerve residents, particularly when there’s a lot of talk about risk of fraud and things like that. Having somebody as steady and responsible as Neal lead that effort really helped our community. I can’t thank Neal enough for his leadership. So those are big shoes to fill, but I have a lot of confidence in Bob.”

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