Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams visited three southwestern counties this week to check in with clerks prior to this year’s midterm elections to see if they needed any help from his office.
Williams thanked the clerks for heading to the Denver metro area earlier this month to attend a training exercise called EPIC — Election Preparedness for Infrastructure and Cybersecurity. National and state cybersecurity officials attended the event, where clerks and county officials handled various Election Day scenarios thrown at them.
Ben Schler, the Secretary of State’s legal and policy manager, accompanied Williams on the trip. Schler, who grew up on a farm just outside of Durango, said he was happy to see the fall colors and to “make sure that we provide the clerks with the support they need.”
This week’s deadline for the clerks: Military and overseas ballots must go out by Saturday.
The secretary and Schler met with clerks in San Juan, San Miguel and Alamosa counties.
“I made a commitment when I first ran for this office to visit every county every two years. So far, we have hit 61 counties in this cycle,” Williams said. “Colorado is incredibly beautiful, especially this time of the year with the leaves turning.”
Here’s a look at each visit:
S A N J U A N
San Juan County Clerk Ladonna Jaramillo said she appreciated the secretary’s visit to her tiny county. How tiny is it? Well, San Juan County is home to 573 active voters.
Jaramillo isn’t known for leaving Silverton too often but she attended EPIC two weeks ago and found it helpful and enlightening. Other county clerks felt the same. They weren’t sure what to expect when they arrived for the training, but raved about the experience afterward.
“It was inundating, so much so fast,” Jaramillo said, but “it woke us up to a lot of things.”
Check out Williams’ last visit to San Juan, in 2016.
S A N M I G U E L
San Miguel County Clerk Kathleen Erie noted that every time the secretary visits he always asks whether she is getting support from his staff. Generally the staff is very good, Erie said, but she always outlines where improvements can be made.
Erie discussed DRIVES with Williams, although the new motor vehicle system is part of of another state agency. It replaced a decades-old system and like all new programs there have been hiccups for county clerks, who handle license plate renewals, vehicle registrations and, in some cases, issue driver’s licenses.
“It’s a time suck,” Erie said of DRIVES, which was a hot topic at the Colorado County Clerks Association conference in August.
Three San Miguel County staffers, including elections clerk Stephanie Van Damme, attended ERIC. They thought the cybersecurity event was “absolutely worthwhile,” and have shared what they learned with the office, Erie said.
She is retiring after this year and Van Damme is running unopposed for the seat.
Check out Williams’ last visit to San Miguel, in 2016.
A L A M O S A
Alamosa County Clerk Melanie Woodward said she’s always glad to the see the secretary of state, and she was glad to see Schler with him because she had questions for him, too.
“I always enjoy visiting with Wayne,” she said. “He is always so caring and concerned that we get what we need from his office, which we always do. ”
Two elections staffers, Terri Carver and Mario Linares, attended EPIC. Both thought it went well, but Linares said he is looking forward to a similar exercise in the future, but with a slower pace and more built-in discussion at the end.
Woodward took Secretary Williams and Schler to her son’s award winning restaurant “Woody’s Q Shack” where they sat outside, enjoyed the beautiful weather and ate barbecue.
Check out Williams’ last visit to the Alamosa County clerk, in 2016.