“I love my husband — we’ll be married 60 years next year. But I don’t know if I want to be home with him all the time,” said Faye Griffin, the outgoing clerk in Jefferson County.
“I’ll miss you all when I’m sitting on a beach next November,” said Hillary Hall, Boulder County’s term-limited clerk and recorder.
“Colorado is the leader in elections. I’m so proud of that,” said Bent County’s longtime clerk, Patti Nickell.
Most of the state’s departing county clerks gathered Saturday night at the Melting Pot in Louisville, where they were feted by the Colorado County Clerks Association. Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell, president of the CCCA, read a letter to her outgoing colleagues.
“Your commitment and sacrifice to your office, staff and citizens of your county is what public service is all about. The county clerk is the hub of the community for connection to their government, and with that came challenges, wonderful memories and a front seat for history,” she said.
“Please remember you will always be a part of us — that our shared experiences and mutual understanding will never dissipate.”
Mitchell and the association’s executive director, Pam Anderson, repeated the word bittersweet several times. Among the clerks saying good-bye are three metro county clerks who lost their re-election bids amid the Democrat tsunami that was the November election: Jeffco’s Griffin, Adams County’s Stan Martin and Arapahoe County’s Matt Crane.
“I wasn’t quite ready to retire but I didn’t have a choice,” Martin said, to laughter.
Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who also lost on Nov. 6, was at an election conference in Canada and unable to attend.
Anderson told the outgoing clerks she plans to see them and the former secretaries of state in June at the clerks’ summer conference in Steamboat Springs. At that time, the Colorado County Clerks Association will celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Each departing clerk who was able to attend Saturday received a John Fielder book and kind words from Anderson about what they contributed to Colorado.
The clerks, in turn, offered their sentiments. If the evening were a song, it would be from Wicked’s “For Good” —
I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…
County treasurers came in for some teasing along the way. That’s because clerks have so many more duties, including overseeing elections, handling the recording of documents, issuing license plates and, in some places, handling payroll and taking minutes at county commissioners’ meeting.
Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner couldn’t run again because of term limits. She ran for treasurer and will be sworn in this month.
“I realize how screwed we all have been because we do so much,” she said, to laughter.
Nickell also got a big laugh when she said that 30 years ago the Bent County Democratic Party knocked on her door and asked if she would run for the open position of clerk or treasurer.
“Foolish me,” she said.
San Miguel Clerk Kathleen Erie, who chose to serve only two terms, said she “came in off the street,” a reference to the face that unlike a number of clerks she didn’t work her way up in the office. She pointed out that so many tasks in county government end up falling on the clerks.
Crowley County Clerk Lucile Nichols, retiring after 46 years in the office, 24 of them as clerk, thanked the association for putting up with her speaking her mind over the years.
“I hope someone else from a little county will shake their fist,” she said. “I hope you know my heart was in the right place when I came forward with suggestions.”
Crane outlined his path in elections, from working for Denver Elections, then the Secretary of State’s office and then working for the Arapahoe County clerk’s office before becoming clerk. He is past president of the association, and has had a number of positions.
Denver Clerk Debra Johnson, who decided not to seek re-election, surprised herself by becoming so emotional in talking about her career and her colleagues. Denver’s clerk is a nonpartisan position, and her term expires in July.
Here’s some of what other clerks said:
Moffat County Clerk Lila Herod: “We don’t grow up wanting to be a county clerk. I wanted to be a history teacher or an FBI clerk. We are better because of each other.”
Broomfield County Clerk Jim Candelarie: “So many people wonder, ‘Did I make a difference?’ Clerks, we never have to wonder that.”
Washington Clerk Garland Wahl: “It’s been a wonderful group to be a part of all these years. I’m turning 75 on my second to last day in office.”
Otero County Clerk Sharon Sisnroy: “I’ve worked in the office since I was 21 years old. It’s been in my blood – but it’s out of my blood now. I’m ready.”
Departing clerks who were unable to attend: Archuleta County’s June Madrid, Costilla County’s Karen Garcia, Clear Creek County’s Pam Phipps, Gilpin County’s Colleen Stewart, and Dolores County’s LaRita Randolph.