Neal Kelley, Registrar of Voters
July 5, 2021
What motivates you to work hard?
I am not afraid to admit that I am obsessed with our operations and believe in watching every detail. Walt Disney was quoted as saying, “There’s no magic in magic. It’s all in the details.” In my opinion, elections require extreme attention to detail, and my motivation centers on continual improvement. I wake up early every morning and think about the day before, asking myself, “How can we make today better than yesterday?”
Please describe your role with your County:
I am the Registrar of Voters for Orange County, California. As the fifth largest voting jurisdiction in the United States, we serve more than 1.8 million registered voters. I have served as the County’s Chief Election Official since 2005 and I have led the Registrar of Voters’ office through the largest cycle of elections in the County’s 132-year history. My primary responsibilities are to conduct all federal, state, and local elections, maintain voter records, and overseeing the processing of petitions made to the government.
Is your glass half-full, or half-empty?
Easy answer, always half-full. With the cliché aside, I truly believe that I am an eternal optimist who always thinks that good things will happen. However, optimistic astronauts do not fly into space with their fingers crossed. Likewise, election officials do not head into election day with their fingers crossed – being an optimist does not mean that you do not plan for all contingencies.
What’s your proudest professional or personal accomplishment?
I have many, but I am very proud to have recently had the opportunity to implement a new voting system and introduce a new way for Orange County voters to vote as a part of the Voter’s Choice Act. In addition, I am a past recipient of the “Public Official of the Year” award by the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks and served as the past president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials and as the past president for the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks. On a personal level, I am the proud father of a Navy veteran (my son, who is 30 years old) and an amazing 26-year-old daughter.
Do you have any words of advice for someone interested in becoming a (Supervisor/CAO, etc):
My advice for someone wanting to enter senior leadership in county government is to read everything, have your hands on all aspects of the operation, take nothing for granted, ask questions, be relentless, obsess over details, and above all LISTEN to the citizens that you serve and serve them well.