Secretary Williams’ war games, election style proves to be epic

Colorado Secretary of State shakes hands with Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen before her keynote speech at Colorado’s Election Preparedness for Infrastructure and Cybersecurity exercise Thursday. (DHS photo)

The role-playing was, well, EPIC.

When election and cybersecurity officials from Colorado and and other parts of the nation gathered for a training exercise, they were given assignments to play as various election disaster scenarios played out.

Misleading tweets that confuse voters. Equipment outages. Hackers.

Eagle County Clerk Regina O’Brien served as a county election director.

Dwight Shellman, the county support manager for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, plays the role of a reporter asking tough questions during a mock election disaster drill.  He is interviewing Tammy Patrick of Democracy Fund, while in the background is the SOS’s Steve Bouey. (SOS photo)

Pitkin County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill portrayed her former employee, Dwight Shellman, who now is the county support manager for the Secretary of State’s office.

And Shellman assumed the identity of various Denver reporters, from the Colorado Sun’s John Frank to 9News’ Marshall Zellinger, asking tough questions of election officials.

“I out Marshalled Marshall,” Shellman boasted.

Welcome to war games, election style or, as the exercise was officially dubbed, EPIC — Election Preparedness for Infrastructure and Cybersecurity.

The goal, Secretary of State Wayne Williams said, was to help prepare Colorado election officials for the Nov. 6 election. Clerks, their staffers, county IT officials and others gathered in five separate rooms and were instructed to deal with the scenarios that were unfolding.

Read moreSecretary Williams’ war games, election style proves to be epic

Secretary Williams: the eastern plains and EPIC

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with members of the Phillip County clerk’s office: elections deputy Mary Roberts, accounts payable clerk Debbie Bennett, Clerk and Recorder Beth Zilla, and clerk deputy Val Danielson. (SOS photo)
Morgan County Clerk Susan Bailey and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams in front of a quilt featuring communities in the county. (SOS photo)

Secretary of State Wayne Williams headed to the eastern plains this week to visit county clerks in Morgan and Phillip counties where he talked about the upcoming election, the one that just ended and a table top election security exercise that is generating national attention.

He met with Morgan County Clerk Susan Bailey in Fort Morgan Thursday and Phillips County Clerk Beth Zilla in Holyoke Friday.

“Thank you for stopping by, it’s always great to see you!” Bailey wrote on her Facebook page afterward. “Your support of our election process is so appreciated.”

“He’s such a down-to-earth guy,” Zilla said.

Bailey will see Williams again on Sunday when they head to Salida for the Colorado County Clerks Association’s summer conference. Zilla is unable to attend.

Read moreSecretary Williams: the eastern plains and EPIC

Tom Noel, also known as Dr. Colorado, to appear for Colorado Day

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and University of Colorado Denver history professor Tom Noel, after stepping of a 16th Street Mall shuttle bus on Monday. (SOS photo)

One of the best things about riding the 16th Street Mall shuttle is you run into folks you know, including Tom Noel, a lover of history, particularly Denver and Colorado history.

It turns out Professor Noel, or Dr. Colorado as he is known, on Monday was hitching a ride to his barber so he would look spiffy for Colorado Day today when Noel and other members of the new State Historians Council will be introduced to the public at History Colorado. Noel will lead the group.

I was happy to introduce Noel to my boss, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who asked, “What’s a state historian?”

Read moreTom Noel, also known as Dr. Colorado, to appear for Colorado Day

Secretary of State works to improve lobbying transparency

The Colorado Secretary of State met with lobbyists and others Wednesday to talk about how to improve the SOS’ online system for filing lobbyist disclosures. Front row, left to right, Megan Wagner with Brandeberry McKenna Public Affairs;  Angie Binder with the Colorado Petroleum Association; Mike Beasley and Alec Wagner of 5280 Strategies; and Loren Furman, with the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry. Back row, left to right, are three Secretary of State staffers,  Mike Hardin, director of Business and Licensing, Trevor Timmons, information technology director and Gary Zimmerman, chief of staff. Sitting with them is lawyer-lobbyist Mike Feeley. (SOS photo)

A working group of lobbyists and activists who use lobbying data met with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office this week to talk about how to make the reporting process more workable and transparent.

Lobbyists must register with the Secretary of State, and they electronically file information about the clients they work with and other data.

“You’re here because you’re the ones who have to input the information in the system and we don’t want to make it impossible for you to try to do your job,” said Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert.

Read moreSecretary of State works to improve lobbying transparency

The best to you, Henry Sobanet

“Nobody has done more for Colorado than Henry Sobanet. There should be streets, buildings, and airports named after him. Henry stands as the antithesis of everything politics has sadly become. Though he stood at the helm of our budget, he cared not for money, but for making Colorado a better place.”

Budget director Henry Sobanet, center, and the two governors he worked for, Democrat John Hickenlooper on the left and Republican Bill Owens on the right, in 2015. Sobanet’s last day at the Capitol is today. (Sobanet picture)

The year was 2005 and I was assigned to cover the complicated ballot measures Ref C & D, dealing with taxes and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

I called the governor’s budget director, Henry Sobanet, all hours of the day and night. “Is this correct? What if that happens? Does this mean this?”

These days I’m answering phone calls from reporters.

At closing time recently I posted a Tweet about the ballot rejection rates from unaffiliated voters in two counties. Reporters immediately asked if I had more numbers. “I don’t,” I said,  “but I can call around to the clerks and get some.”

“You would do that on a Friday afternoon?” Megan Verlee of Colorado Public Radio asked.

Yes, because that’s my job.

Sobanet always answered his cell phone. I once had a a fairly lengthy budget conversation with him one Friday night before he finally admitted he was at a party and talking to me from inside someone’s bedroom.

Today is Sobanet’s last day at the state Capitol after serving the state and two governors for 20 years.

Read moreThe best to you, Henry Sobanet