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Democrats Laud Bickford’s Service on Arlington Electoral Board
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Democrats Laud Bickford’s Service on Arlington Electoral Board

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Charlene Bickford with Paul Ferguson, Clerk of the District Court.

The Arlington County Democratic Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 6, approved a resolution commending Charlene Bickford, Chair of the Arlington County Electoral Board, who is retiring from the Board after 23 years of service with distinction.

Jill Caiazzo, Chair of the Arlington County Democrats, said “I have always found Charlene to be even handed, to focus on making sure the election process is fair, that all votes are fairly counted.” Bickford explained the Electoral Board oversees the work of the Registrar’s Office, sets the policy, reviews the machines before the election, addresses problems that may arise on Election Day.

Caiazzo said, “Charlene has always been very fair and reasonable.” She adds that Bickford would have been the person President Trump called if he wanted to try to sway the results of the Arlington election, although Bickford assured that nothing like that had ever happened during her time there. The Electoral Board is composed of three members with two of the three members required to be from the same party that controls the governorship.

The resolution honors Bickford’s many contributions including her “long and multi-faceted service to Arlington County and to the Arlington County Democratic Committee.” Her duties ranged from serving on the “Kitchen Crew” at Democratic functions, to serving as an initial member of the Roosevelt Society which developed a significant source of funds, to her volunteer work on a number of campaigns.

Bickford has seen a number of changes in her 23 years on the Electoral Board as the Arlington population has grown with a huge increase in particular areas. But Bickford thinks in some ways Arlington is less diverse than they were when she first started working on the Electoral Board. “I can’t quantify it but so many people who are immigrants and in those strong African-American communities in Hall’s Hill and Nauck can’t afford to live in Arlington anymore.”

Bickford recalled back when Virginia was a Byrd Democratic state, then moved to Republican. “Now it is a real Democratic state.”

She remembered, “When I started we had those old metal machines with heavy levers and people would get injured on down ramps delivering them, and the machines had counting levers in the back that would stick sometimes.” Then they moved to the touch-screens “which I thought were great. They were so intuitive and people were more likely to vote in all races with flashing lights to remind them.” Then on to a different lever machine and “now we have paper ballots which people trust because they mark their own ballot and put it in the tabulator themselves.”

One of her favorite memories was the election of 1974 when Joe Fisher turned Arlington’s Congressional district from red to blue. “Everyone was honking in the streets and there was such a crowd that when Jimmy Carter called to congratulate him, getting to Fisher with the phone was nearly impossible.”

The text of the resolution follows:

RESOLUTION BY THE ARLINGTON COUNTY DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE

Honoring the Many Contributions of Charlene Bickford

WHEREAS Charlene Bickford retired from the Arlington County Electoral Board on December 31, 2020; and

WHEREAS, Charlene Bickford served with distinction on the Arlington County Electoral Board for a total of 23 years, and in recent years has chaired the Board; and

WHEREAS, Charlene Bickford served as Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee for two terms for a total of six years, from 1985-87 and 1996-2000; and

WHEREAS, Charlene Bickford over the last four decades has undertaken a wide variety of volunteer jobs for the Arlington County Democratic Committee; and

WHEREAS, Charlene Bickford was an initial member of the Roosevelt Society (now the Roosevelt-Obama Society) and later served as chair of the Society, helping to develop it into a steady source of significant funds for the Arlington County Democratic Committee; and

WHEREAS, Charlene Bickford volunteered for many local Democratic campaigns over the past decades, including in 1974, when Democrat Joe Fisher upset long-serving Republican Joel Broyhill to become Arlington’s delegate to the United States House of Representatives; and

WHEREAS, Charlene Bickford served for decades on the Kitchen Crew, which provides refreshments at Arlington County Democratic Committee functions; and

WHEREAS, in her professional life Charlene Bickford is a historian who has served for many years as Research Project Director at George Washington University; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the Arlington County Democratic Committee hereby honors Charlene Bickford and her long and multi-faceted service to Arlington County and to the Arlington County Democratic Committee, and be it

RESOLVED FURTHER that the Arlington County Democratic Committee will prepare a copy of this resolution for presentation to Charlene Bickford as an expression of the gratitude of the Committee and our community for her distinguished service.