As a teen, Aaron Sheasley, the new director of the county elections bureau, enjoyed accompanying his grandfather when the older man performed his duties as a judge of elections in Sheasley's native York County.
He served as an unofficial gofer for the officials scurrying about the precinct, preparing for citizens to exercise their duty as Americans on Election Day.
“I got to see how everything worked,” Sheasley said.
When he graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a degree in information technology, it seemed natural for Sheasley to accept a position at Diebold Election Systems.
During his time with the voting machine company, Sheasley learned about the elections processes in many U.S. states.
Sheasley, who moved to Seven Fields 15 years ago and is now a resident of Cranberry Township, got into management in his field and was most recently a managing partner and director of SE Systems and Technologies of Cranberry Township.
He also decided to walk in his grandfather's footsteps and serve as a judge of elections in his Cranberry Township precinct, Cranberry East 2, where he has overseen elections for several years.
“It feels like things I have done throughout my entire career have pointed toward this position, and it's a natural progression,” Sheasley said of his new job as county elections bureau director.
Although he is new, he has set his priorities in the new position.
“My primary responsibility is to make sure we continue to have safe and fair elections,” Sheasley said. “That is the No. 1 thing, especially in the middle of a pandemic.”
Sheasley also plans to eventually reach out to high schools in the county as well as Butler County Community College and its satellite locations to educate young people about the importance of voting.
“Over the past several years, as I've watched people come into the polling location and vote, I'm noticing there are not a lot of young people,” he said.
A check of the voter rolls showed young people are registered, but many do not vote.
“That concerns me because we need to have young people getting involved in the process,” Sheasley said.
He is also an advocate of citizens voting in every election, not just those in a presidential election year.
“What many fail to realize is your school board and all the local candidates you vote for are much more impactful on your daily life than the big elections that are heavily advertised,” Sheasley said. “That's not something a lot of young people are aware of.”
He said signing off on all the tallies after his polling place closes is one task of a judge of elections, so he has noticed the voting trends in his precinct for several years.
“One of the things I see is the percentage of people in that precinct who voted that day, and I'm always surprised it's not higher,” Sheasley said.
Sheasley has spent the time leading up to taking his seat in the director's chair at the elections bureau educating himself on the department's budget, policies and procedures, so he could hit the ground running Aug. 27.
“The staff at the elections bureau is very talented, and I'm looking forward to working with them,” he said. “I worked with them as judge (of elections), and they called to congratulate me (about being hired as director),” Sheasley said.
One issue Sheasley will deal with in his new job is mail-in voting.
He said Act 77 of 2019 allows voters to use mail-in ballots without giving a reason for not coming to the polls.
Voters took advantage of the ability to cast their ballots by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, which stressed the elections bureau during the primary election in June when mountains of ballots arrived almost daily.
“The budget allows for seasonal workers, so I hope to expand that and bring in more people to help with that load and really be able to knock it down,” Sheasley said.
Sheasley was excited to take up his post Monday.
“I'm really excited about this,” he said. “I've always been passionate about voting and the whole process, and this is just a great opportunity.”
His wife, Tracy, works in Pittsburgh in the finance industry. The couple have a son, Alex, 21, who is a junior at IUP.
Sheasley replaces Shari Brewer, who was the county elections director for a decade.