Larimer County’s Irene Josey: a treasurer — and a treasure

Larimer County Treasurer Irene Josey sits in the the newly remodeled lobby in her office in Fort Collins. The wall of historic Larimer County photos were reproduced and framed by John Clarke Photography. Clarke was a Larimer County commissioner from 1995 to 1999. (Treasurer’s photo)

Here’s to Larimer County Treasurer Irene Josey for bringing back a bit of history to her office: a 2,500-pound safe that left the courthouse in a front-end loader in the 1970s and now graces her lobby.

The Fort Collins Coloradoan recently ran an intriguing story about Josey’s role in getting the safe back.

“The safe was built by the Mosler Safe Co. of Hamilton, Ohio, in the 1890s. In its day, it probably held money, bonds and other important documents,” the newspaper reported. “The original floral-print carpeting still covers its floor. Pasted to the inside of the safe are ‘service tickets’ from when its time lock received maintenance. The earliest dates to 1899.”

Local Realtor Sean Dougherty told Josey in March 2016 he saw the safe in a house for sale. It was built into a wall with “Larimer County Treasurer’s Office” painted above the safe door. Josey did some research and learned the safe was used in the original Larimer County Courthouse, which opened in 1887. It stayed in use until a new safe was purchased in 1964.

The original safe used by Larimer County.
The interior of the first safe ever used by Larimer County.

“The old safe sat gathering dust until Larimer County decided to give it away in 1977,” Josey said in”The Story of the ‘Safe’ Return,” which she wrote to document the safe’s journey.

It went to Ken Mosness, the former superintendent of the Larimer County roads department, who “was mesmerized by the safe and its history,” Josey learned after speaking to Mosness’ former wife, who now lives in Arkansas.

“When he took possession of the safe he used a front-end loader to scoop up the safe and carry it to their home in Skyview Estates, where it remained until 2016,” Josey wrote. “Over the years, the safe saw children and grandchildren grow and families move in and out. An addition was also built around it, called the ‘freezer room’ where a freezer kept the safe company for all those years.”

Some parts of the safe had seen the end of a crayon.

Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert, Larimer County Treasurer Irene Josey and Secretary of State Wayne Williams during a visit to Fort Collins in 2016. (SOS file photo)

Josey talked to the home seller, Martha Conrad, and the home buyer, Caroline Brennan, and they agreed the piece of Larimer County history should return home. But getting it there was another matter. Josey didn’t think taxpayers should foot the bill, so she talked with Mark Driscoll, market president of First National Bank. The bank donated the money to pay for the move.

The safe was returned to the current courthouse on April 11, 2016, a month after Josey first learned about it. But it was put in the courthouse basement because her office was in the process of discussing a lobby remodel, which didn’t begin until this January and recently concluded. The safe also was cleaned up.

Josey said she struggled to find a date where all three commissioners would be available to celebrate the new lobby, where the safe now sits. It turned out to be April 11, exactly one year after the safe came home.

“When I realized that,” Josey said, “I got goose bumps.”

Note: Thanks to Dick Wadhams, who alerted me to the story in the Fort Collins newspaper.

Disclosure: Josey and I were both raised in Vermillion, S.D. When I interned at the weekly newspaper one summer in college, I covered her dad, a Clay County commissioner. Irene and I didn’t meet, however, until a few years ago in Denver.  These days, I’m blessed to see her now and then.

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