Democracy & Dragons in Phillips County

Darci Tomky, a reporter with The Holyoke Enterprise, interviews Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams Friday during his visit to Phillips County Clerk Beth Zilla. (SOS photo)
Darci Tomky, a reporter with The Holyoke Enterprise, interviews Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams Friday during his visit to Phillips County Clerk Beth Zilla. (SOS photo)

Phillips County Clerk Beth Zilla wore a Holyoke Dragons shirt to the office on Friday, and she wasn’t the only one dressed in forest green, gold and white.

Zilla explained her wardrobe to Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams when he dropped by to see how Phillips County is preparing for the Nov. 8 election. “My husband’s the football coach,” Zilla said. “We’re playing tonight.”

Williams liked the shirt so much he bought a Holyoke Dragons shirt on his way out of town.

Phillip County voters elected Zilla clerk and recorder in 2002. Previously, she worked for the Sedgwick County clerk and then transferred to Phillips County in 2000.

“I just love the people — well, most of the people,” she said with a laugh, and then corrected herself again, “most of the time.”

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Praise for Yuma High School and its voter-registration efforts

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner with Navil Babonoyaba and Andrea Hermosillo, two Yuma High School graduates who got 96 percent of their class to register to vote during the last school year. Yuma High was honored during an awards ceremony Friday. (SOS photo/Judd Choate)
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner with Navil Babonoyaba and Andrea Hermosillo, two Yuma High School graduates who got 96 percent of their class to register to vote during the last school year. Yuma High was honored during an awards ceremony Friday. (SOS photo/Judd Choate)

Two of Colorado’s top leaders shared their high school experiences when honoring Yuma High School on Friday for its effort in registering its seniors to vote.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner — a 1993 Yuma High grad — addressed students at an afternoon assembly at Yuma High School.

“It’s easy to participate but a lot of folks don’t do that. Instead they complain. They whine,” Williams said. “But you have a couple of students here who took some leadership and they did something different. They got their peers registered to vote.

“I’m just ecstatic to be here at Yuma High School.”

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Yuma County clerk soon will solemnly swear

Yuma County Clerk Bev Wenger and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams in the building that houses election equipment. (SOS photo)
Yuma County Clerk Bev Wenger and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams in the building that houses election equipment and serves as a voter service center. (SOS photo)

Yuma County Clerk Bev Wenger is headed to Kansas in January to testify at the trial of Lincoln Wilson, who has admitted voting in Yuma County in 2010, 2012 and 2014 and in Sherman County, Kan., in the same elections.

A Colorado DA declined to prosecute Wilson, saying because he voted in Yuma County first he did not commit voter fraud, but the Kansas secretary of state has filed charges against the 65-year-old Republican. The case prompted Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams to successfully push for legislation that allows Colorado to prosecute an errant voter, no matter where the first ballot was cast.

Wenger discussed the case with Williams on Friday when he visited her office in Wray to check on readiness for the Nov. 8 election. Yuma County has a spacious building across the street from the courthouse that it uses for its election operations — and to store its award-winning Christmas tree made with license plates.

“I’m so appreciative that the secretary has taken time to visit and to listen to our concerns,” she said.

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With recall possibility looming, no rest in Sedgwick County after Nov. 8

Sedgwick County Clerk Chris Beckman and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams inside her elections office in Julesburg. (SOS photo)
Sedgwick County Clerk Chris Beckman and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams inside the elections office in Julesburg. (SOS photo)

Sedgwick County’s clerk and recorder is Chris Beckman. One of its three commissioners is Jim Beck. Naturally, there’s some good-natured ribbing about their names.

“I call him Jim Beckman,” the clerk said, with a laugh.

The two traded faux barbs Friday in her office at the Sedgwick County courthouse in Julesburg, but the commissioner conceded, “The last month, they’ve been working their tails off.”

That’s the story throughout the state as Colorado’s 64 clerk and recorders and their staffs prepare for the Nov. 8 election.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams met with Beckman and Friday to see her election set-up and ask if she needed anything from his office. In addition to elections, motor vehicle registrations, recordings and such, the Sedgwick clerk handles payroll and finances for the county.

The latest population figures for Sedgwick County, in northeastern most Colorado, show 2,360 people and three towns: Julesburg, Ovid and Sedgwick. Beckman’s been the county clerk for six years.

“I do love a lot of things about my job,” she said. “I love going to work. I love my employees.”

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Garland Wahl, going out of her way for Washington County

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams at the Washington County clerk's office in Akron. Behind him is Brandy Ward, Clerk Garland Wahl and Esther Weis. (SOS photo)
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams at the Washington County clerk’s office in Akron. Behind him is Brandy Ward, Clerk Garland Wahl and Esther Weis. (SOS photo)

Garland Wahl was elected to her first term as Washington County clerk and recorder in 1982. She ran again four years later and won, and just kept running and winning.

“One term just went into another,” the 72-year-old Wahl said Thursday, after Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams visited her at her office in Akron.

“I work for the citizens of Washington County. That’s something I’ve tried never to forget. I try to go out of my way for them,” Wahl said, adding she once drove a ballot to a Greeley hospital so a resident could vote.

Other county clerks have high praise for Wahl. “Such a great mentor,” Morgan County Clerk Susan Bailey wrote on Facebook Thursday.

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