The Delaware County Board of Elections defied all odds Tuesday as two poll workers received the highest award given by the Ohio Secretary of State — the Precinct Election Official (PEO) Red Carpet Award — for their outstanding service.
“We’ve never received this award before for any of our people,” said Ed Helvey, chairman of the board, as he addressed the assembly of board members, staff, and county and state officials. “It’s our opportunity to bask in the sunshine a little bit.”
Recipients Larry Fraker and John Rybka received their awards from Rebecca Stanfill, the central Ohio regional liaison for the Secretary of State’s Office.
“It takes 35,000 poll workers just to run an election each time there is an election,” she said. “It’s a pretty big deal for them (both) to be recognized.”
Stanfill said the Secretary of State’s Office only awards five PEO Red Carpet Awards per year, which is usually done regionally, but to have two from the same board office is “huge.”
Bronwen Evener, BOE manager, recommended Fraker and Rybka for the awards.
“They sent out to every board of elections asking for recommendations for people we thought are worthy of being the Red Carpet Award winners,” Evener said as she told her story about submitting the two names for the award. “They get a little accommodation from the Secretary of State, and they put their picture in the newsletter that comes out for every election. When we got (the request), they both happened to be in the office. I saw them, and I thought of them. So, I sent a little thanks to the Secretary of State’s Office.”
Evener said that the Delaware County Board of Elections feels honored to have both of them receive the award, but for her, “It’s a real honor to me to work with these guys.”
Evener added that Fraker and Rybka have stepped up time after time to make sure things run smoothly during the elections in Delaware County.
According to Evener’s submission to the Secretary of State, Rybka had undergone kidney surgery to insert a stint before the August special election. Unknown to everyone around him, he was working with a 105-degree temperature.
“I deferred my surgery so that we could do the equipment pick and finish the training,” Rybka said. “Then the right side hit me. I had emergency surgery on that Monday night.”
Rybka said his surgeon caught him looking at the clock on the morning of election day before the polls opened.
“The surgeon goes, ‘What are you looking at that for?’” he said. “I have to work at five o’clock in the morning.”
Rybka said they told him he wasn’t going anywhere. Then the infectious disease people walked into his room.
“I knew it was serious,” he said. “I caught blood poisoning from the stint and that turned into sepsis.”
“But I still took calls in the hospital that morning,” he said.
According to Evener’s submission for Fraker, he started as a PEO and moved up quickly to become a voting location manager. He is currently responsible for the board’s absentee mailing department and the guru of the inserting machine and ballot verifier.
According to the submission, Fraker now works in the board office on election day but still stops by his old precinct to check on everyone.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.