Donna Marshburn was one of the most unassuming, kind and hard-working women one could ever hope to meet. Her death this week has saddened a community whose members found themselves relying on her as much for a soft-spoken word of encouragement or a gentle smile as for meeting their election needs.
She delivered to. No matter how bad she might felt or how tired she was, Marshburn stood ready to assist and always greeted people with a smile and a helping hand, guiding them through whatever questions they might have.
For the past three years, residents and candidates have depended upon her to lead them through the elections process in her capacity as director of the county’s Board of Elections, and she didn’t let them down. Taking the reins in March 2010 from long-time director Sylvia Thornton, Marshburn often said she had big shoes to fill, but she assured everyone that she would work as hard as she could to handle her office in the same professional manner that Thornton had done for so long.
After all, she had said in earlier interviews, she had learned from the best, naming Thornton and Veterans Service Officer Ann Knowles as those who had taught her so much about both agencies in the 17 years before she took the director’s position.
There were trials in her three-year tenure, most dealing with residency issues of candidates, but Marshburn handled each one like a pro, never ashamed to seek advice or answers to legal questions should she need them, and never afraid to stand behind the appropriate actions. Doing the right thing was always at the forefront of her mind and she never strayed from that focus in her years as director.
Marshburn believed in giving the job everything you had, and she set the example, working tirelessly to ensure that elections went off without a hitch and that citizens’ needs were met.
She was not a stranger to hard work; in fact, she likely helped write the book, something that all her colleagues can attest to. Marshburn gave 110 percent. Even when she was sick, she fought hard to get her job done, and did so until her body could no longer keep up with her determined mind.
Knowles was quoted in Friday’s paper as saying about Marshburn, “Whatever had to be done, she would grab a hold of it and do it.”
Those who have ever been in the Board of Elections or Veterans Office know just how true that statement really is.
But as much as Marshburn loved her work, she loved her family more. She took great pride in talking about her children and their accomplishments, and often shared stories about them with those who visited the Veterans Office or Board of Elections.
She’d beam when she mentioned Jennifer or Derick, grin when she talked of her husband Jerry and gushed every time she mentioned the names of her grandchildren, Austin, Matthew and India. They were, she would tell anyone who would listen, her pride and joy.
She never tired of talking about her family or laughing with her friends. And she never hesitated to give her job everything she had to give.
Marshburn was well known and well loved by people from all walks of life. People just felt like they could talk to her, and they often did, something that delighted the elections director.
Her death last week has brought sadness. But Marshburn, we believe, would have urged those who loved her to carry on, making their mark in life and making her proud along the way, sharing themselves with others, working hard, laughing a lot and caring for others.
It’s a great legacy to leave behind, an example we should all follow.