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.”

Drive-thru digs in Elbert County

Colorado Secretary Wayne Williams, center, with various Elbert County officials, including Clerk Dallas Schroeder to his right, pose in front of the new county building sign after a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday in Kiowa. (SOS photo)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday for the new Elbert County Clerk and Recorder’s office, which features the first drive-up Motor Vehicle Department operation in the state.

That’s what happens when you move into a former bank building.

“Because it used to be a bank, it’s set up for customer service,” Elbert County Clerk staffer Sheryl Borden said.

The clerk and the treasurer’s office opened Tuesday for service. They used to operate out of the county administration building just down the road.  Gone are the days of cramped motor vehicle counters and “commissioners looking over our shoulders,” joked Dallas Schroeder, Elbert county clerk and recorder.

“It is going to be a good service, it’s something that’s going to benefit not just the employees but it’s going to benefit the citizens as well,” Schroeder said. “We have more space, we have more motor vehicle counters, its just going to be a great service that we can offer.”

Tony Anderson, with the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, and Tasha Gomez, with the Elbert County clerk and recorder’s office in the clerk’s new digs. To their right is the drive-up window. (SOS photo)

Schroeder, Williams, county commissioners, state Department of Revenue employees and others participated in the ribbon-cutting, which attracted a crowd. Williams talked about the benefit for elections.

“You’ve got the ability for folks to be able to come in, cast their ballot, register to vote, participate in the process and it is exciting to see the facility here and all its going to offer Elbert county voters as well as motor vehicle,” he said.

Just before the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Samuel Elbert building, visitors were warned about touching door jams and other objects that had just received a paint touch up just minutes before. The building is named after Samuel Hitt Elbert, who served as governor of the Colorado territory in the 1870s and later went on to serve as a Colorado Supreme Court justice. Elbert County, Mount Elbert, and the town of Elbert are all named after him.

The bank-turned-county office features a fireplace centered in the lobby, which prompted a zinger from the secretary of state.

Elbert County Clerk and Recorder Dallas Schroeder is flanked his wife, Rebecca, left, and Rhonda Braun, elections director. (SOS photo)

“Hey Dallas,” he said, “is it true that on election night CNN will be here with the fireplace in the background?”

“They’re always invited,” Schroeder replied.

At that, county commissioner Chris Richardson mumbled, “We were hoping for Fox News,” which caused an eruption of laughter. Elbert County is the one of the — if not the — most Republican performing counties in the state.

Meanwhile, neighboring El Paso County on Friday will open the first 24-hour Motor Vehicle kiosk in the state, allowing patrons to handle their registration business around the clock. It will be located at the Union Town Center branch in northern Colorado Springs.

Williams praised both Elbert and El Paso counties, saying the innovation is a game-changer.

“These are levels of customer service you normally don’t get from government,” he said.

Elbert County: shopping while voting

Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroeder has a ballot-drop box located inside the Walmart in Elizabeth. (SOS photo)
Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroeder has a ballot-drop box located inside the Walmart in Elizabeth. (SOS photo)

Twin airbed mattresses are on sale for $7.97 at the Walmart in Elizabeth and as an added bonus, Elbert County shoppers can drop off their ballots for Tuesday’s primary election.

The local Walmart and the Elbert County clerk have teamed up to make it easier for citizens to vote. So far, no one’s voted ’til they’ve dropped but the concept has proved pretty pretty popular.

“We love it,” said Mark Hernandez, the assistant store manager. “It makes us more of a community store. ”

Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroeder and his elections director Rhonda Braun said voters enjoy the convenience.

“About 22 percent of our ballots come from the drop box,” Schroeder said. “Walmart has just been very good to work with.”

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