Emotional secretary of state knows nonprofits make a difference

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, center, with Michelle Majeune, who works with people with developmental disabilities, and Linda Childears, the Daniels Fund president and CEO, at the Colorado Nonprofit Association lunch today. (SOS photo)

The Colorado Nonprofit Association’s annual award lunch has produced its fair share of tears over the years as the community thanks those who make a difference in so many ways, and this year’s catalyst for catharsis was Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Usually, it’s the award recipient who is weepy.

In this case it was Williams, set to hand out an award to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who became so emotional when  praising nonprofit groups that he had to pause for several seconds before he could continue.

“For those who don’t know my two daughters, we learned as they grew that they had significant speech deficiencies,” Williams told a ballroom full of people at the Hilton Denver City Center. “So we worked with The Resource Exchange, one of our great nonprofits in the Colorado Springs area, to provide services for them.”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams became emotional today when talking about the impact of a nonprofit on his family. (SOS photo)

Williams paused, and when he could resume speaking, his voice was thick with emotion.

“In 2013 I had the opportunity to hear the youngest of those daughters give the salutorian address at Rampart High School,” he said, to applause.

“Folks,” Williams said, struggling to continue, “the work that you do makes a real difference in the lives of everyone.”

After the lunch, Williams talked with the Gerry Rasel, director of membership services for the Colorado Nonprofit Association, who told him she cried during his speech.

The Colorado Nonprofit Association exists to strengthen nonprofits. Today was its 23rd annual awards lunch, capping a week of highlighting nonprofit agencies.

Renny Fagan, president and CEO of the Colorado Nonprofit Association, talks at a reception before today’s awards lunch. (SOS photo)

“Colorado Nonprofit Week is one of our favorite times of the year because it brings all of us together and truly shines a light on the important contributions that happen everyday in communities,” said Renny Fagan, president and CEO of the Colorado Nonprofit Association.

Read moreEmotional secretary of state knows nonprofits make a difference

Inspire Colorado’s work with high school students inspires donors

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams speaks at a fundraiser Monday for Inspire Colorado, a nonpartisan group that encourages high students to register to vote and get involved. To his left, in blue, is Donalyn White with Inspire Colorado and to her right, in a white shirt, is Bob Meinzer, a board member with the national Inspire group. (SOS photo)

Twitter is filled with suggestions about motivating young people to vote this year, but the Centennial State is way ahead of that idea, thanks to Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Inspire Colorado.

Over the last three years, Inspire Colorado has worked with schools across the state in a student-led movement to register classmates to vote or get those already registered to pledge to vote. So far Inspire Colorado has signed up more than 7,000 students.

Williams — who got his start in politics in high school — believes it is so important for young people to be involved he established the Eliza Pickrell Routt Award, which the offices hands out to high schools where more than 85 percent of the senior class has registered to vote.

Roxane White, former chief of staff for Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose daughter Donalyn White organized the fundraiser for Inspire Colorado. (SOS photo)

“We would not be where we are today in the state of Colorado without the wonderful support of the Secretary of State’s office and Secretary Williams,” said Ryan Drysdale, regional manager for Inspire Colorado.

Drysdale, Williams and Roxane White, the former chief of staff for Gov. John Hickenlooper, were among the speakers at a fundraiser Monday night in Denver to benefit Inspire Colorado, a nonpartisan organization that works with students, teachers and school administrators to talk to classes about the importance of civic engagement.

“I have to say that Inspire Colorado has become my top charity,” White said. “I’m concerned about the growing inequality in America and the growing anger in America and the feeling that we can’t make a difference.”

Read moreInspire Colorado’s work with high school students inspires donors

Go Code Colorado: another year of data-driven competition

Simon Tafoya, the policy director for Gov. John Hickenlooper, and Secretary of State Wayne Williams, at the Go Code Colorado challenge kickoff Wednesday night in Denver (SOS photo)

Colorado’s funkiest and most fun data contest — Go Code Colorado — kicked off Wednesday night, marking the fifth year that the Secretary of State’s office has invited creative minds to use public information to build a product that helps businesses.

“We work hard to make data available and usable for Colorado businesses,” Secretary of State Wayne Williams said in his opening remarks.

Previous winners have developed a range of projects. One helped small farmers locate farmers markets and price information. Another created a platform for companies to connect with potential employees based on personality match.

Sen. Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat, heaped praise on the Secretary of State’s office and the award-winning Go Code Colorado program during last year’s competition.

“This is, in my opinion, the epitome of how we should be thinking about government moving forward,” he said. “We should be thinking about how to take the assets and the innovation of the new industries that are popping up around tech and see how that expertise and that talent solves some of the problems that maybe government can’t do on its own.”

Read moreGo Code Colorado: another year of data-driven competition

Colorado’s hard-working county clerks face unique challenges this year

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with three Eastern Plains county clerks at the Colorado County Clerks Association 2018 winter conference: Lincoln’s Corinne Lengel, Logan’s Pam Bacon, and Yuma’s Beverly Wenger. (SOS photo)

Colorado’s county clerks are bracing for major changes this year, from mailing primary ballots to unaffiliated voters for the first time ever to revamping the Motor Vehicle operations their offices handle.

To prepare for 2018, the Colorado County Clerks Association at its winter conference in Colorado Springs last week offered workshops dealing with duties that most clerks handle, including recording documents, issuing license plates and running elections.

The association also installed new officers for the coming year. Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell succeeded Logan County Clerk Pam Bacon as the group president.

“We need to thank the Secretary of State staff for working so hard with us this year and for the last several years,” Bacon said. “We have a pretty great working relationship with them and it takes all of us to make changes that work.”

Williams reviewed a list of achievements, including the completion of the first statewide risk-limiting audit designed to catch election errors. He also updated clerks on the installation of  ballot boxes to make it easier for voters to drop off their ballots 24-7, and the implementation of Dominion Voting Systems equipment that clerks say has made elections easier to run.

“We are the talk of the nation, as usual,” Williams said. “We are rock stars.”

Read moreColorado’s hard-working county clerks face unique challenges this year

Gov. Hickenlooper’s last speech mentions a favorite: beer

Colorado Gov. John W. Hickenlooper delivers his final State of the State address Thursday at the Colorado State Capitol. (Photos by Evan Semón Photography/Special to the SOS)

Gov. John Hickenlooper, a former brewpub owner, twice mentioned “beer” when he delivered his eighth and final State of the State Thursday.

The term-limited governor has mentioned beer in at least six of his eight State of the State speeches.

The first reference this year to beer came when the governor talked about “topophilia.”

The brewpub that John Hickenlooper founded, Wynkoop Brewing Co., commemorated his first inauguration with a beer.

“It’s our love of place, and reflects our love of Colorado,” Hickenlooper told the 100 lawmakers and others in the packed House chamber.

“It’s the growling of tractors in Brush’s Fourth  of July parade. It’s the smell of barbecue at the little league ball fields in Sterling on a summer night. If you’ve seen a sunrise over the plains, drank a cold beer after a day of hunting, or consider ‘Rocktober’ a real month, you’ve experienced it.”

He also talked how in ancient Greece, discussions about hot topics took place over large dinners and lasted days.  There was no “cable TV debate or tweet storm,” different viewpoints emerged and people “invested their time in each other, often fueled by wine.”

“Here in Colorado, we’ll stick with beer,” he said, drawing a friendly protest from Rep. Edie Hooten, a Boulder Democrat who likes her wine.

Hickenlooper also said “giddy up” twice on Thursday. That refers to a story he tells often, with someone asking about the opposite of the kind of “woe” that means sorrow and distress and getting the cheerful answer “Giddy up!”

Two years ago, Hickenlooper published his memoir, “The Opposite of Woe: My life in Beer and Politics.”

He ended his State of the State by saying, “Thank you for your partnership, your friendship, and for deepening our love of this wonderful, wild ​place. One last time from this podium: Giddy up!”

Read moreGov. Hickenlooper’s last speech mentions a favorite: beer