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 Williams explains campaign to educate unaffiliated voters

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams today talks with the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Public Affairs Council about his office’s effort to educate unaffiliated voters about the June primary.  (SOS photo)

For the second time this month, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams talked to the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce about this year’s primary election, where unaffiliated voters for the first time in history will be able to vote in primary elections without formally affiliating with a major political party.

The office is developing a mostly digital campaign to let unaffiliated voters know they can only mark and return a Democratic or a Republican ballot. But they can’t vote both — if they do, the votes won’t count.

“This is part of what we’re trying to convey,” Williams told the chamber’s Public Affairs Council this morning. “Make sure your vote counts.”

The secretary of state’s office recently polled unaffiliated voters.  Among the results:

  • 39 percent intend to vote in the primary
  • 33 percent don’t
  • 28 percent are undecided
  • 27 percent plan to vote in the Democratic primary
  • 12 percent plan to vote in the GOP primary

Read moreSecretary Williams explains campaign to educate unaffiliated voters

The Year of the Mature Woman

Rep. Beth McCann and prosecutor Helen Morgan are running for Denver district attorney. (SOS photo)
No matter what happens Election Night, Denver will elect its first woman district attorney. Running are Rep. Beth McCann, a Democrat, and prosecutor Helen Morgan, who is unaffiliated. (SOS photo)

UPDATE: As of Tuesday Nov. 15, almost 147,000 more women than men have voted in Colorado.

On the night of the Colorado primary, I called Democratic Rep. Lois Court of Denver to congratulate her on winning her three-way race for state Senate.

I didn’t have a dog in the fight but I had covered Court. We also talked about Rep. Beth McCann’s win over two men in her three-way Democratic primary for Denver district attorney.

“I guess it is The Year of the Woman,” I said.

“The Year of the  Mature Woman,” Court corrected me. After all, the 67-year-old had just defeated a man and a woman in their 30s.

The Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton, just celebrated her 69th birthday. And there’s a chance of an increase in the number of women serving in the U.S. Senate next year.

“I like to call it the ‘Year of the Ageless Woman,'” said former House Majority Leader Amy Stephens.

Given Clinton’s nomination and some of the topics in this presidential cycle, the Colorado Secretary of State also tracked ballot returns by gender this  election. 

“Strong Sisters” documents the role of women in Colorado politics

The Andersons: Kate, granddaughter of former lawmaker Norma Anderson, center, and daughter of former Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder Pam Anderson, right, attended the "Strong Sisters" premiere Sunday afternoon. Colorado has yet to have a woman governor, but Norma Anderson said her granddaughter would be perfect for the job when she gets older.
The Andersons: Kate, left, the granddaughter of former lawmaker Norma Anderson, center, and the daughter of former Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder Pam Anderson, right. They attended the “Strong Sisters” premiere Sunday afternoon.
Two Republican lawmakers, Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik of Adams County and Rep. Kathleen Conti of Arapahoe County, at the showing of "Strong Sisters."
Two Republican lawmakers, Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik of Adams County and Rep. Kathleen Conti of Arapahoe County, at the showing of “Strong Sisters.”

A who’s who of female politicians — including former House majority leaders Norma Anderson to Amy Stephens — showed up Sunday for the premiere of the documentary they starred in, “Strong Sisters,” which examines women and Colorado politics.

The bipartisan film, produced by Meg Kruizenga Froelich and Laura Hoeppner, looks at the many firsts for women in Colorado but notes how they haven fall short when it comes to higher office.

Only four women have served in the U.S. House — Pat Schroeder, Diana DeGette, Marilyn Musgrave and Betsy Markey — and no woman has been elected to the U.S. Senate or governor.

Read more“Strong Sisters” documents the role of women in Colorado politics

Denver Press Club Hall of Fame adds five new inductees

It’s one thing to be inducted into the Denver Press Club Hall of Fame. It’s another to be part of a class of amazing individuals, whose résumés are beyond impressive.

Denver Press Club Hall of Fame 2015
Denver Press Club Hall of Fame 2015

The other members of the 2015 Denver Press Club Hall of Fame who were inducted on Friday night were famed Final Four photographer Rich Clarkson; Mary Chandler, the architecture critic for the late, great Rocky Mountain News; Mike Keefe, a Pulitzer-prize winning cartoonist formerly of The Denver Post; and, posthumously, Damon Runyon, an early member of the Denver Press Club who is best known for moving to New York and writing “Guys and Dolls.”

(Click on the links, folks, for great reads on these people.)

Back in February, when the inductees were announced, I asked former state GOP chairman Dick Wadhams and columnist extraordinaire Mike Littwin to do the honors of introducing me during the banquet. Littwin is in Austin with a new grandson so Wadhams handled the job by himself.  It was a trip down memory lane as he mentioned previous Capitol reporters, including John Sanko, Fred Brown and Charlie Roos.

What an honor to be seated next to Dan Haley, former opinion page editor of The Post who introduced Keefe, and looking out at a crowd that included the only and only Andrew Hudson, the spokesman for Denver Mayor Wellington Webb at one point in his own amazing career. Also present at the Press Club: U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, former CU Regent Tom Lucero, former House Speaker Frank McNulty, former House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, former City Attorney Dan Muse, Denver Post folks Joey Bunch and Dan Petty, Eric Bergman with Colorado Counties Inc. and my new boss, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Thanks, Dick, for your remarks:

Read moreDenver Press Club Hall of Fame adds five new inductees