melanie gilders award photo

Fulton County Board of Elections Director Melanie Gilders is pictured with Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Gilders was the recipient of the secretary of state’s “Pat Wolfe Election Official of the Year” award in 2020 for all of Ohio.

WAUSEON — The director of Fulton County’s board of elections has been named the top election official in Ohio.

Melanie Gilders was the recipient of the Ohio Secretary of State’s “Pat Wolfe Election Official of the Year” for 2020. She was honored with a plaque and medallion from the secretary of state’s office.

“It’s definitely an honor to be recognized by the Secretary of State’s Office and to represent our county in a positive way,” Gilders told The Crescent-News. “Even though this is an individual award, I couldn’t do it without the support of our deputy, our board, my staff and our county commissioners.”

Gilders has been Fulton County’s director for that past 11 years and served as deputy director for two years before that. Earlier, she had been employed by the Fulton County Job and Family Services Department.

She noted the challenges that elections present, but also the satisfaction which comes when they are completed.

“In elections, it’s kind of a love-hate relationship,” she said. “There are times we know that it’s very, very difficult, 2020 being one of the most difficult years that I’ve ever experienced. I think anyone statewide would say the same thing.

“There’s nothing more rewarding to me than Election Night when all the tallies are in and we can take that breath and say, ‘you know what? It all worked out again,” explained Gilders. “We were part of something huge in 2020. That pressure was 10,000 times more than we had before, and yet that night it all worked out, and we could go home and say, ‘these results are correct.’ That’s what keeps me coming back. We know we did all we could and we did it to the best of our ability and (the public) can rely on the information we put out.”

Gilders was nominated for the award by Defiance County’s board of elections director, Tonya Wichman.

Wichman made a number of complimentary remarks about Gilders in her nomination to the state, and concluded by writing, “I look up to Melanie as a mentor and a friend, and can say sincerely she runs elections with integrity and grace. She sets an example for all of us in a small county that determination and perseverance will get the job done no matter how big it seems. The election process is lucky to have a woman like her who is willing to give her heart and soul to get it done correctly.”

The award is named in honor of Pat Wolfe, an elections administrator with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office before retiring recently. She had been with the state for 35 years, according to Gilders.

The award had existed under a different name before being changed to recognize Wolfe’s career.

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