Colorado SOS participates in Homeland Security election exercise

Two Colorado Secretary of state staffers, Trevor Timmons, left, and Rich Schliep, right, flank two Dominion Voting Systems staffers, Donetta Davidson and Kay Stimson, after a Department of Homeland Security tabletop exercise Monday. (SOS photo)

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office and other agencies participated Monday in a virtual exercise aimed at election preparedness.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security sponsored the tabletop exercise with some 20 states as the general election looms and concerns continue about election security issues.

“They posed scenarios and asked, ‘How would you approach this?’” said Trevor Timmons, chief information officer for the Colorado Secretary of State.

Timmons and other SOS officials, along with members of the Colorado National Guard, the Governor’s Office of Information and Technology and DHS officials based in Colorado participated in the table top from the Secretary of State’s conference room.

Additionally,  Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, recognized as a leader in election security, appeared today on a national public radio program to talk about election security.

“You have to have processes in place that people can have confidence in. That’s why Colorado has some of the highest voter participation rates in the country,” he told The Takeway.

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Colorado’s Ken Kester: “How a public servant should be”

The life of the late Sen. Ken Kester, known for his humor , effectiveness and support for southeastern Colorado, was celebrated Monday at separate events in Las Animas and Cañon City. (Facebook: Dan Kester)

Covering the Colorado legislature was a blast and I was always reluctant to single out a favorite lawmaker because I liked so many of them, but on April 11, 2005 I  came clean.

“Do you have a favorite legislator? ” Colorado Pols, a new blog that was a must read for politicos, asked me in a Q & A.

“My press colleagues and lawmakers always tease me about Sen. Ken Kester,” was my answer. “He was so much fun in the House and he is a riot in the Senate.”

And it was true. How could you resist a guy who couldn’t resist having some fun with fellow Sen. Jim Isgar over a sex education bill.

“Isgar told me’s coming out with a bill where you’ll have driver’s training and sex education in the same car,” Kester deadpanned.

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Denver clerk eclipses previous records

Celebrating 2017 National Voter Registration Day at Civic Center Park were, from left to right, Alton Dillard, spokesman for Denver Elections; former Colorado Secretary of State Donetta Davidson; Suzanne Staiert, deputy secretary of state; and Debra Johnson, Denver clerk and recorder. They were in front of Denver’s new mobile voting center, listed as one of the office highlights for last year. (SOS photo/Julia Sunny)

Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson commandeered last year’s eclipse to highlight her 2017 annual report that looks at elections, marriage licenses and other clerk functions.

“A large swath of the U.S. viewed the totality of the solar eclipse last year, and here at the Clerk and Recorder’s Office, our accomplishments in 2017 eclipsed all previous years,” Johnson said in news release issued today.

“With the incredible growth in Denver, we’ve seized opportunities to lead the way in elections, records preservation, marriages and bringing our services directly to you.”

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Colorado’s county clerks prepare for — and dress for — change

The Pitkin County Clerk’s office, with the assistance of Secretary of State Wayne Williams, model hats that reflect the seasons. Left to right: Clerk Janice Vos Caudill, fall; Kelly Curry, winter; Secretary Williams, mud; Beverly Mars, spring; and Mars’ daughter, Shelley Popish, summer. (SOS photo)

How do you come up with costumes when the theme of your conference is the nebulous “change?”

Pitkin County clerk staffer Kelly Cury, with her hat reflecting winter, and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, with his hat for “mud” season, take the stage as part of the Colorado County Clerks Association’s costume contest Wednesday. (SOS photo)

Well, the Pitkin County clerk and recorder’s office focused on the changing seasons in one of the most picturesque locales in Colorado. For that effort, Pitkin County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill and her staff Thursday night won a costume contest at the Colorado County Clerks Association’s winter conference.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams joined the Pitkin staff in modeling hats based on the five seasons.

Yes, five.  Williams wore the hat for “mud” season, you know, “the window of time between when the ski resorts close and when the summer activities pick up again.” With melting snow, there’s lots of mud.

There even was a brief wardrobe malfunction. The string on Williams’ hat broke before the contest started, and Vos Caudill enlisted a project manager with the Colorado Department of Revenue to fix it.

“I told Wayne’s wife (Holly), ‘I hope you don’t mind us dragging him through the mud — season,'” Vos Caudill said. “Wayne was so much fun.”

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The evolution of Maria Elena Ramirez

Secretary of State Wayne Williams with staffer Maria Ramirez, who is retiring effective Oct. 31. (SOS photo)
Secretary of State Wayne Williams with staffer Maria Elena Ramirez, who is retiring effective Oct. 31. (SOS photo)

Maria Elena Ramirez was, in her own words, “a welfare mom” who lived in public housing and received food stamps and a variety of other government benefits.

Until one day when she decided it was time to go in a different direction. She applied for a job with the state of Colorado, and interviewed with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office on July 14, 1999.

That was the same day Secretary of State Vikki Buckley, another welfare mom who worked herself out of poverty, died of a heart attack.

Ramirez began working for the Secretary of State on  Aug. 2, 1999.

“I learned I could support me and my kids,” Ramirez said. “I became independent.”

Countless calls — and six secretaries of state later — she is calling it quits. Today is her last day. Ramirez has four children, ages 31 to 24, and five grandchildren, but she’s not stepping down to spend more time with them, at least not right away.

“I turned 50 last year,” she said. “It’s time to do something for me. So I’m heading to the East Coast.”

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