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.”

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

Longtime Colorado Secretary of State employee to retire

Senior systems manager Brenda Lavely retired today after working for nearly 32 years at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. (SOS photo)

Senior systems manager Brenda Lavely ends her long and accomplished tenure at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office at the end of the year when she retires after serving under eight secretaries  over a span of nearly 32 years.

At her retirement ceremony today, Lavely was feted with two huge cakes, greeting cards and heartfelt well wishes.

“It’s not all been fun,” she said to laughter, “but there are so many of you who are really close to my heart. It’s bittersweet for me but it’s time. I want to thank you all for being my friend.”

Among those who attended the retirement ceremony was former Deputy Secretary of State Bill Hobbs, who retired in 2011 after serving five secretaries of state over 12 years.

Lavely has participated in the transformation of the office from paper forms and lines out the door to automation. She has impacted the lives of hundreds by making sure the data center operations run smoothly, managing the help desk to provide internal customer support, and being involved in the design and construction of the existing agency data center.

“Brenda is one of those people who will do whatever is needed to get the job done well,” said Chief Information Officer Trevor Timmons. “She has a long track record of helping people who don’t even know what they need get what they need.”

Read moreLongtime Colorado Secretary of State employee to retire

Secretary Williams, “you’ve run a tip-top operation”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, left, with Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, and two SOS staffers, elections director Judd Choate and IT director Trevor Timmons, during Friday’s meeting before the Joint Budget Committee. (SOS photo)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams received plenty of praise during his final appearances before two legislative committees, where he highlighted the office’s achievements and challenges.

The El Paso County Republican presented his budget requests to the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee Friday morning, and later in the afternoon he discussed performance plans, regulatory and legislative agendas, and budget requests as part of the SMART Act hearing.

Legislative aide, Michael Templeton, who works for Sen. Lois Court, a Denver Democrat, center, and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams. (SOS photo)

“I’ve had the opportunity to work very closely with you and your office on a variety of issues over the years,” Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, and the chairman of the Joint Budget Committee, told Williams.

“I have to say, you’ve run a tip-top operation.”

Lawmakers on the the Joint State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee were equally complimentary later that day.

“I just want to thank you for your years of service to Colorado and the excellent job you’ve done as our secretary of state and how hard I know you’ve worked to be bipartisan as much as you can be,” said Sen. Lois Court, D-Denver.

“That takes a lot to do the kind of work you’ve done and to try to work as hard as you have across the aisle and I absolutely appreciate it, so thank you.”

Read moreSecretary Williams, “you’ve run a tip-top operation”