A fond farewell as I leave the Colorado Secretary of State’s office

Lynn Bartels and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, in 2015 when Bartels was sworn into the Denver Press Club’s Hall of Fame.

Of course it took former House Majority Leader Amy Stephens to give me a reality check when I panicked about leaving my job as the spokeswoman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s job.

Amy reminded me of our breakfast in 2015 shortly after I took the buyout offered by The Denver Post. I was leaving a 35-year-career in journalism to work for Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

“I might be making the biggest mistake of my life,” I said. “I don’t know how to be a government spokesperson.”

It turns out I did OK, judging by the e-mails I got from reporters when Williams lost his re-election bid and  they learned the new secretary of state wouldn’t be keeping me on.

“If there is a model example of a journalist transitioning to being communications director, you’re it,” said Amy Maestas, editor of The Durango Herald. “I wish there were more of you.”

Thanks,  Amy, and all of you who reached out to me.

And thanks, Wayne Williams, for the amazing opportunity.

I loved that you hired me not knowing my party affiliation and that we were able to civilly disagree on lots of things, including the 2016 presidential election. (I’ve been a registered Democrat, unaffiliated voter, and Republican but I’ve never voted a straight ticket.)

You put up with my inability to drive at night or in the snow or parallel park. You, the elected official, dropped me off at events and went and found parking or gassed up the car!

And I still laugh about that the day at Maggiano’s when we were meeting with the Colorado County Clerks Association. You ordered all these pastas and I said in a horrified voice, “Wayne! The carbs!” And the waiter said, “You can tell you two have been married for a while.”

Elbert County Deputy Clerk Rhonda Braun and Lynn Bartels with the SOS.

I will also miss our incredible county clerks and their staffs. I got a text message last night from Rhonda Braun, the Elbert County deputy county clerk. She included a picture of us taken at a clerks conference.

“Ran across this gem — love and appreciate you sooo much,” she wrote. “Thank you for what you do. You care so much about people and truth.”

My job technically ends at 11 a.m. Tuesday, but today is my last day at the office. Wayne is hosting an ice cream social this afternoon to say good-bye to our incredible staff, and my girlfriends from the Rocky Mountain News are taking me out to dinner tonight.

I’m going to try to figure out my future in the next couple of week. In the meantime, I’ll savor the memories of this amazing job.

“Thanks for always being so helpful,” wrote Ana Campbell, managing editor of Westword. “I mean it — you went above and beyond when it came to explaining and communicating, and the citizens of this state are all the better for it.”

From the Secretary of State’s office to South Africa

Lizzie Stephani, an intern with the Colorado Secretary of State, and Robert Miller, a former U.S. attorney, at the investiture for Jason Dunn on Dec. 7. (SOS photo)

One of the many joys of my soon-to-be-over job as communications director for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office is working with interns, including Lizzie Stephani, who ended her internship in December and then departed for South Africa.

I’ve known very few people who have her curiosity and sense of adventure.

Want to go to Colorado Common Cause’s banquet? The swearing-in for Colorado’s new U.S. attorney Jason Dunn? Will you blog about Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ visit with Baca County Clerk Sharon Dubois and Dolores County Clerk LaRita Randolph? Can you attend the Sabor Latino event with Secretary Wayne Williams? Sure. Yes. I would love to. That will be really interesting, thanks for inviting me.

“Sabor attendee: Secretary Williams cares about our community,” the headline on Stephani’s blog read.

Now Stephani is writing her own blog about her adventures in South Africa.

Julia Sunny and Lizzie Stephani Julia at the Young Catholic Professionals Christmas party in RiNo. (SOS photo)

“I made it to South Africa! After 3 layovers, passing through 3 continents, and a few new friendships along the way, I have arrived. Isn’t it funny how, when you get a new place, you start really thinking about the last one?” she wrote.

“I am so full of gratitude for the people God placed into my life during the past five months I spent in Denver. Thank you to every person who was excited for this trip and offered an encouraging word.”

Stephani also gave a shout out to her immediate supervisor, Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert, my assistant, Julia Sunny, and to me!

“Lynn always gave me interesting work to do and key blogging experience to support my new blog venture! ” she wrote.

Secretary Wayne Williams wishes you and your family a merry Christmas

A very young Wayne Williams, his brother Brent and sister Charisse at Christmas in Virginia. (Williams photo)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams grew up in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, but he certainly dressed like someone who would eventually  live more than half of his life in the West.

“My wife Holly and I wish everyone the best that Christmas and the holidays have to offer,” Williams said. “We’re thrilled to be able to spend it with our four grown children, one daughter-in-law, and our granddaughter.”

The Secretary of State’s office will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, but you can still access most operations online, from updating your voter registration to establishing or renewing your business registration.

“While you’re visiting family, it’s a great time to remind folks to register or update your voter registration,” Williams said

Colorado county clerks hope lawmakers fix early-voting rules

Members of the Bipartisan Election Advisory Commission watch the clip from VICE News about the Secretary of State’s ” war-games, election style,” exercise in September. Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane, second from left, was prominently featured in the show. (SOS Photo)

County clerks say a state law that dictates how many early-voting election facilities they must operate should be changed to allow local governments to make that decision.

They made their appeal Wednesday during the Bipartisan Election Advisory Commission meeting, the last one under outgoing Secretary of State Wayne Williams. He assembled the group in 2016 to provide feedback on elections.

The clerks have argued through several elections that the number of voters who visit the Voter Service and Polling Centers, or VSPCs, particularly in the first week they are open, doesn’t make sense because of the low turnout. Clerks would like to devote the resources  where they need them.

Logan County Clerk Pam Bacon noted that her in-person voting center is the courthouse in Sterling, but she is required to open two additional facilities in the county on Election Day.

“I had 20 people at one location and six at the other,” she said. “Those two extra locations short me where I need hands the most, which is at the county office.”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Michael Valdez with the Special District Association, who serves on the Bipartisan Election Advisory Committee. Behind them is Melissa Polk, an attorney in the SOS’ elections division. (SOS photo)

Williams also discussed Colorado’s record turnout in the mid-term election — second in the nation behind Minnesota — and his office’s nationally lauded efforts on election security.

“Our clerks did a phenomenal job. Our staff did a phenomenal job as well,” Williams said. “I want to say thank you to all of them for that.”

Douglas County Clerk Merlin Klotz returned the compliment.

“Where Colorado stands as far as the most secure place to vote speaks for the entire team and the job you’ve done,” he told Williams.

Read moreColorado county clerks hope lawmakers fix early-voting rules

Chauncey Billups: Denver’s “Big Shot”

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and former Mayor Wellington Webb, left, and NBA standout Chauncey Billups and his wife Piper, right, flank Billups’ portrait that was unveiled Tuesday at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library. (Photo by Josh Miller/Special to the SOS)

Hometown hero Chauncey Billups credited his family and his community for his successes on and off the basketball court when his photograph was unveiled this week at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library.

The NBA all-star said he plans to bring his daughters to see the library when they are home from college for the holidays and he urged others to visit the library at 2401 Welton St.

Basketball star Chauncey Billups pays tribute to Denver’s first black mayor, Wellington Webb. (Photos by Evan Semón Photography @evansemonphotography #denverEvan)

“My great great grandkids are going to be able to come here and see their old, old man,” Billups said.

“I never dreamed this big, to have something like this. … I’m so proud of where I’m from and who raised me. I appreciate you all supporting me over the years and I love you back.”

He also thanked former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and Webb’s wife, former state Rep. Wilma Webb, for their efforts in pushing for the construction of the library, where a portion is dedicated to making sure Denver and Colorado’s rich black history is not lost.

“You talk about people who impacted me as a kid?” Billups said. “Having Mayor Webb being a black mayor from the neighborhood instilled in us kids we could do anything.”

Read moreChauncey Billups: Denver’s “Big Shot”