The three Rs for Colorado’s county clerks

The Colorado County Clerks Association winter conference kicked off Wednesday in Colorado Springs. From left to right: Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane, CCCA director Pam Anderson, Pueblo County Clerk Bo Ortiz and Logan County Clerk Pam Bacon. (SOS photo)
The Colorado County Clerks Association winter conference kicked off Wednesday in Colorado Springs. From left to right: Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane, CCCA director Pam Anderson, Pueblo County Clerk Bo Ortiz and Logan County Clerk Pam Bacon. (SOS photo)

After the year Colorado’s county clerks had in 2016, it’s no wonder they chose this theme for their winter conference underway in Colorado Springs: “Rejuvenate. Recharge. Relax.”

In between seminars on the US Postal Service and mail ballots, Motor Vehicle operations and electronic recordings, clerks and their staffs could take part in a social painting class, a nature walk at Garden of the Gods and yoga.

Darryl Glenn, chairman of the El Paso County Board of Commissioners and the GOP’s U.S. Senate nominee last year, acknowledged the hard work of Colorado’s 64 county clerks.

“I don’t think you guys receive enough praise,” he said Wednesday when he welcomed the clerks and their staffs.

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Colorado’s newest county clerk, Regina O’Brien of Eagle County

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams today visit Eagle County's new clerk and recorder, Regina O'Brien. From left to right: O'Brien, election manager Stacy Jones, Williams, elections deputies Karen Sepp and Jenny Thompson. (Eagle County photo)
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams today visit Eagle County’s new clerk and recorder, Regina O’Brien. From left to right: O’Brien, election manager Stacy Jones, Williams, elections deputies Karen Sepp and Jenny Thompson. (Eagle County photo)

Secretary of State Wayne Williams today visited Colorado’s newest county clerk, Regina O’Brien of Eagle County.

O’Brien, who had served as the Eagle County deputy clerk since 2013, was appointed to the top post by the board of county commissioners on Dec. 14. She succeeds Clerk Teak Simonton, who resigned Nov. 17 after winning her race for county treasurer.

After the visit, O’Brien e-mailed Williams, who has made it a point to visit every county clerk in his or her office since becoming secretary of state in January 2015.

“Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to meet with me and the Eagle team this morning,” she wrote.

“It’s wonderful to know that when we go to work each day, the SOS team is there to support us; that support and leadership starts at the top with you.  I look forward to working with and learning from you and all of the dedicated clerks across the state, and I hope to continue to serve in this role for years to come.

The Vail Daily reported that “O’Brien graduated magna cum laude from the University of Notre Dame with an undergraduate degree in government and international relations. She also graduated magna cum laude from the University of Oregon with a Master of Business Administration. A native of Illinois, O’Brien has lived in Eagle County since 1997. She currently lives in Edwards with her husband and two daughters.”

The Colorado legislature convenes …

Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, Tom and Laurie Kennedy of Colorado Springs, parents of Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, and Secretary of State Wayne Williams. (SOS photo)
Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, Tom and Laurie Kennedy of Colorado Springs, parents of Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, and Secretary of State Wayne Williams. (SOS photo)

Today marks Day 3 of the Colorado Legislature, which convened on Wednesday amid plenty of excitement as new lawmakers were sworn in and the social calendar kicked off.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams mingled with senators and representatives and their families before the opening ceremonies Wednesday.

When he met incoming Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, he realized he knew the lawmaker’s dad. Tom Kennedy and Williams both practiced law at the same time in Colorado Springs.

Williams on Thursday attended Gov.  John Hickenlooper’s seventh State of the State speech.

“We have 725 days left together, and as the late, great, Muhammad Ali said, ‘Don’t count the days, make the days count,'” Hickenlooper said.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, on opening day. (SOS photo)
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, on opening day. (SOS photo)

I loved covering the Colorado legislature, first for the Rocky Mountain News and then for The Denver Post (except for some of those hearings or debates that never seemed to end).

My first session was in 2000 where the hottest committee was House Finance. Every lawmaker, it seemed, had an idea of how to cut taxes  to reduce that billion-dollar surplus. Yes, billion with a B. Such heady times, followed by such hard times.

Eventually the excitement of the opening days leads to exhaustion, frustration and drama.

“Often referred to as Gold Dome High School, the Capitol is a petri dish for hurt feelings, dust-ups and behavior lawmakers often regret,” I wrote in 2011, after the latest blow up.

When May finally rolls around, there’s relief and a tinge of sadness. That building really is so special, the people who work there — the lawmakers, the lobbyists, the staff, the janitors, the reporters — they all make it hum.

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$52 per vote? County clerks explore changing early-voting requirements

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams addresses the Bipartisan Election Advisory Commission on Tuesday, which discussed early-voting requirements. Seated at the table are other commission members, including from left to right Aurora City Clerk Karen Goldman, Sen.-elect Dominic Moreno, D-Commerce City, and Steve House, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. (SOS photo)
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams addresses the Bipartisan Election Advisory Commission on Tuesday, which discussed early-voting requirements. Seated at the table are other commission members, from left to right, Aurora City Clerk Karen Goldman, Sen.-elect Dominic Moreno, D-Commerce City, and Steve House, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. Behind Moreno is Douglas County Clerk Merlin Klotz. (SOS photo)

Colorado’s county clerks want some leeway when it comes to providing early-voting locations during general elections because of costs, the turnout and the difficulty in securing locations and judges.

Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane said the data suggests the first week could be eliminated – his county spent $52 per vote over those six days. But he said one option for Arapahoe might be reducing locations for that first week from 11 to just the clerk’s office and the four Motor Vehicle offices.

Martha Tierney, the attorney for the Colorado Democratic Party and a commission member, opposed the reductions.

“We saw two- and three-hour lines (on Election Day),” she said. “Let’s not forget that.”

The discussion about polling centers was the lone topic of discussion Tuesday at the fourth meeting of the Bipartisan Election Advisory Commission, which was created by Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with support from legislators and others concerned with elections. The goal of the commission is to come up with solutions to fix election problems identified by Williams, his staff and others.

Williams told the group that he believes the data “clearly shows” that the present number of sites is excessive, but he doesn’t think the first week should be eliminated.

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Tustin Amole, Woman of the Year

Harry Bull, the superintendent of the Cherry Creek School District, and Tustin Amole, the district's communications director, were named Man and Woman of the Year today by The Villager. (Peter Jones/The Villager)
Harry Bull, the superintendent of the Cherry Creek School District, and Tustin Amole, the district’s communications director, were named Man and Woman of the Year today by The Villager. (Peter Jones/The Villager)

What an honor for Tustin Amole. In what will be her last year as spokeswoman for the Cherry Creek School District, she has been named The Villager’s Woman of the year and her boss, Superintendent Harry Bull, has been named the Man of the Year.

The Villager announced the winners today, saying Bull “puts the ‘super’ in ‘intendent.'” It’s the latest honor for Bull, who also has been named Administrator of the Year from the Colorado High School Press Association.

Of Amole, The Villager’s Peter Jones wrote, “From winning test scores and mill levy victories to lunchroom ‘scandals’ and teachers behaving badly, Amole has strived for nearly two decades to tell the Cherry Creek story in full, even in the face of death threats and only a few obnoxious journalists.”

“As a former reporter, I was very familiar with the open-records law so I knew what had to be given up,” Amole told the newspaper in an interview. “There’s no point in stalling. People who try to stonewall the media — it always ends badly for them.”

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