Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams heads way out West

Dolores County Clerk LaRita Randolph points to her great grandfather in this picture of Colorado's county commissioners at a 1941 conference. She found the photo at an antique shop in Springfield and instantly recognized her relative, the one with "big ears and a big nose."
Dolores County Clerk LaRita Randolph points to her great grandfather in this picture of Colorado’s county commissioners at a 1941 conference. Roy West was a Dolores County commissioner. Randolph found the photo at an antique shop in Springfield and instantly recognized her relative, the one with “big ears and a big nose.”

When Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams showed up in remote Dove Creek on Friday morning, folks asked him if he was running for office.

Yes, but not until 2018 when he is seeking a second term. Williams arrived in Dove Creek in 2016 to visit Dolores County Clerk LaRita Randolph and her two staffers as part of his effort to visit all county clerks in their offices.

Her office in the Dolores County Courthouse features a huge picture window and a view of the Abajo or Blue Mountains in Utah — the state line is only eight miles west. Visitors frequently comment on the sight, but there’s not much else to praise about the courthouse, which was constructed in 1953, Randolph said.

“It’s old enough to be crappy but not old enough to be cool looking,” she said. “It’s that mid-century yuck.”

Randolph said she appreciated visiting with the secretary, calling their discussion “productive” and “good.”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with Dolores County Clerk LaRita Randolph, center, and her staffers, Prentael Coker and Karen Kibel.
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with Dolores County Clerk LaRita Randolph, center, and her staffers, Prentael Coker and Karen Kibel.

Randolph was first elected clerk and recorder in 2006, when Williams was serving as an El Paso County commissioner. She was re-elected in 2010, the same year Williams won his race for El Paso county clerk and recorder. And Randolph was re-elected in 2014, when Williams was elected secretary of state. Previously, she worked as a dispatcher for Dolores County.

Williams’ decision to travel to Dove Creek earned him some praise the following day, when he spoke at Club 20’s spring meeting in Grand Junction.

Congressman Scott Tipton, who knows a little something about driving long distances because of the vastness of the 3rd Congressional District, gave Williams a shout out.

And prolific political consultant Dick Wadhams, who has traveled the state plenty, admitted he doesn’t believe he ever made it to Dolores County, the only one of 64 counties he has missed.

It’s a drive.

“The county encompasses 1,064 square miles, mostly high mesas and narrow valleys in the western portion. The eastern portion is high mountains. The elevation in Dolores County ranges from 5,900 feet in Disappointment Valley to 14,046 feet on Mount Wilson,” according to the county website.

“Dolores County, like other counties in Colorado along its border with Utah, is split into two geographically distinct regions, and in fact, under normal travel conditions, it is necessary to leave the county to travel between the two regions,” reads one description.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with the Doug and Linda Funk with the Dove Creek Press.
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with the Doug and Linda Funk with the Dove Creek Press.

In fact, in order to get to Rico in the eastern portion of the county, drivers must go through Montezuma or San Miguel counties. Adding to the confusion is that town of Dolores is located not in Dolores County but in Montezuma County north of Cortez.

“We get calls about that all the time,” Randolph said.

Williams also visited the Dove Creek Press, located just south of the courthouse and operated for 33 years by Doug and Linda Funk. By the way, the paper’s for sale.

“I just thought it was interesting that you came and visited and it wasn’t an election year,” Linda Funk said. “Well, it’s an election year but the secretary is not on the ballot.”

She said she’s in agreement with Williams that 24-hour drop boxes where voters can drop their ballots off at any time are a good thing for counties. She’d like to see Dolores County get one.

Denver pioneered the use of drop boxes. When Williams served as El Paso County clerk and recorder, he installed the county’s first drop box prior to running his first general election.  Based on voter demand, Williams later added 11 additional drop boxes.