Hail to the “Chief,” Adams County’s Christi Coburn

Christi Coburn, second from right, the elections administrator for Adams County Clerk Stan Martin, right, this week received an award from the Colorado County Clerks Association. Also pictured are Secretary of State Wayne Williams, Pam Anderson, the executive director of the clerks group, state elections director Judd Choate, and Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell, president of CCAA. The backdrop features a picture of the Steam Plant in Salida. (SOS photo)

Christi Coburn’s election experience spans five secretaries of state and five county clerks, and this week she was honored by the Colorado County Clerks Association for her efforts.

Coburn received the Michelle Burton Excellence in Elections Service Award. She was nominated by her boss, Adams County Clerk Stan Martin.

“Christi has shown time again her dedication to the voters, to the integrity of the entire elections process  and to my staff,” Martin said. “She has been instrumental in transforming our organization for the better and improving staff morale and our organization processes.”

Her colleagues, he said, call Coburn “Chief.”

The Michelle Burton award honors “those who demonstrate love and extra devotion to the election process.” The other finalists were Jami Goff from Fremont County and Jenny Thomas from Routt County. Both run their county’s elections.

Michelle Burton began her elections career in 1976 in the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. She was working as an Arapahoe County elections deputy when she and her husband Wayne died in a car accident in 2000 as they were traveling to Utah to watch their 14-year-old son play in a soccer tournament. The Grandview High student was not in the car, which collided with a deer.

The Burton award was presented Tuesday at the clerks’ summer conference in Salida at the Steam Plant.  The finalists’ nomination letters were read to the conference-goers.  The finalists then individually walked to the stage where they were recognized.

Coburn didn’t realize her colleagues were giving her a standing ovation until she turned around.

Adams County Clerk Stan Martin and his election administrator Christi Coburn answer election-related calls from 9News viewers before this year’s primary election. Coburn this week received an award from the Colorado County Clerks Association. (SOS photo)

“Oh, wow!” she said.

She credited the “great leaders and mentors” she has worked alongside for putting her in a position to be able to help Colorado’s voters.

She described Clerk Martin as “an amazing individual.” She serves as his chief deputy and elections administrator.

Coburn also singled out former Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson, calling her “one of the most amazing mentors I’ve ever had  in my life.” Anderson is now the director of the Colorado County Clerks Association.

Judd Choate, the state election director, told about primary night in 2012 when he had assigned Coburn and another SOS staffer to help out in Teller County. Wildfires were raging in the area and he was on the phone with her throughout the day.

“Finally I said, ‘Christi, you’ve got to get out of there. You’ve got to close up that polling place. You can move it.’ She said, ‘No, there are people waiting in line.'”

He said he again ordered her to evacuate only to be told, “The fire is still over the next ridge. We’ll get out of here if we have to.” The next thing Choate heard was a “click.”

F R E M O N T   C O U N T Y

Fremont County Deputy Clerk Dotty Gardunio and elections director Jami Goff with Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell, president of the Colorado County Clerks Association, during the group’s summer conference in Salida. Goff was a finalist for an award from the CCCA. (SOS photo)

Dotty Gardunio, the chief deputy for the Fremont County Clerk and Recorder’s office, nominated Jami Goff for the Burton award. Goff has been the elections director for seven years.

“In those seven years, she has completely taken over the department, restructured it and improved it greatly,” Gardunio said in her nomination letter.

She said Goff reads, understands and interprets statutes, and spent a lot of time testing and creating new ideas after unaffiliated voters were allowed to automatically participate in primary elections to make sure their ballots counted.

“Fremont County has had a tough time over the past 10 months and Jami has stepped up and not only made sure her  department never faltered, but the whole office as well,” Gardunio said. “She has and continues to be one of the most reliable, dependable, honest and smartest people I know.”

R O U T T   C O U N T Y

Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell, president of the Colorado County Clerks Association, with Routt County elections manager Jenny Thomas and Routt County Clerk Kim Bonner. Thomas was a finalist for a CCCA award. (SOS photo)

Routt County Clerk Kim Bonner nominated elections coordinator Jenny Thomas for the Burton award.  She told the conference-goers that in 2016 her election manager walked out without notice.

“Besides the election manager, I was the only other one who has ever managed the entire process. Jenny and I decided we could get through the election with one person short. We worked a ridiculous amount of extra hours and Jenny continually managed to impress me,” Bonner said. “She is now our go-to person in elections because the word ‘can’t’ isn’t in her vocabulary.”

Bonner also described Thomas as a rock star when it comes to social media, and praised her for learning the new Motor Vehicle computer system so she can help out in that arena, too.