Five county clerks. Eleven general elections. Twenty-one years of efficient and excellent service.
And one big retirement party for Liz Olson, the elections manager of the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, who is as respected across the state as she is in El Paso County.
“For more than two decades Liz Olson has set the standard for election officials,” said Secretary of State Wayne Williams.
The El Paso County Board of Commissioners honored Olson last week with a proclamation and plenty of praise.
“I’ve worked really hard. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished,” Olson said at the end of the ceremony. “I very often put my work before my personal life and I don’t have any regrets. I felt like that’s what the job required. But I do want to tell my family how much I appreciate their support.”
She also singled out her current and former co-workers, saying she couldn’t have done it without their help. Back at you, they replied.
Williams has known Olson for years, as a county party chairman, member of the canvass board, county commissioner, county clerk and now as secretary of state.
During his time on the canvass board, El Paso County used the same punch cards that would later become so controversial in Florida in the 2000 presidential election. El Paso County never had any problems, he said, because of clear standards on what constituted a vote and what didn’t.
He also said previous secretaries of state used to float ideas by Olson because “she’s an honest broker and that’s what you have to have.”
Former County Clerk Bob Balink gets the credit for promoting Olson to the top elections job.
“That’s one of the most brilliant things I ever did,” he told the commission. “I said, ‘Please call if you need anything.’ She never called.”
Also honoring Olson was Deb Walker, the executive director of the Citizens Project, which was formed in El Paso County in 1992 to “became the vehicle for the community voice to promote the values of inclusion, diversity and tolerance.” Walker said her group had a “wonderful working relationship” with Olson.
During her career, Olson racked up a number of awards, including the the 2016 Achievement Award presented by the National Association of Counties in recognition of the program “Innovation in Election Administration”; the 2017 Independence Award presented by the Election Center and the 2017 “Clearie” Award presented by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission for excellence in election administration in recognition of the El Paso County election department’s work improving accessibility for persons with disabilities.
The current clerk and recorder, Chuck Broerman, said Olson was so good she helped keep the office out of negative “above the fold” stories.
“Voters have benefited from her smart and pragmatic approach to improving our elections,” said Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane. “She will be missed. We wish her all best in her retirement.”
A special thank you to Greg Dingrando, digital media specialist for El Paso County, for the photos and You Tube video of the ceremony.