Secretary Williams and Monty Python

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams addressed the elections staff Wednesday, a day after the general election. (SOS photo)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams this week congratulated his elections staff on their work and asked them to help make the incoming secretary as successful as he has been.

Colorado set a record turnout for a midterm election, although ballots are still being counted.

“You guys did a phenomenal job,” the secretary said. “Thank you.”

On another Nov. 6, in 1990, Coloradans elected Republican Hank Brown to the U.S. Senate and re-elected Democrat Roy Romer governor. On this Nov. 6, Democrats shattered the state’s reputation as a ticket-splitter, electing Democrats to every statewide constitutional office.

Among the victors: Jena Griswold, who nixed Williams’ bid for a second term.

“The new secretary is going to need your support and help because that’s the only way new secretaries are able to do it,”  said Williams, who was elected to the office in 2014.

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Go Code Colorado: another year of data-driven competition

Simon Tafoya, the policy director for Gov. John Hickenlooper, and Secretary of State Wayne Williams, at the Go Code Colorado challenge kickoff Wednesday night in Denver (SOS photo)

Colorado’s funkiest and most fun data contest — Go Code Colorado — kicked off Wednesday night, marking the fifth year that the Secretary of State’s office has invited creative minds to use public information to build a product that helps businesses.

“We work hard to make data available and usable for Colorado businesses,” Secretary of State Wayne Williams said in his opening remarks.

Previous winners have developed a range of projects. One helped small farmers locate farmers markets and price information. Another created a platform for companies to connect with potential employees based on personality match.

Sen. Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat, heaped praise on the Secretary of State’s office and the award-winning Go Code Colorado program during last year’s competition.

“This is, in my opinion, the epitome of how we should be thinking about government moving forward,” he said. “We should be thinking about how to take the assets and the innovation of the new industries that are popping up around tech and see how that expertise and that talent solves some of the problems that maybe government can’t do on its own.”

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Former Morgan County Clerk Connie Ingmire honored

Former Morgan County Clerk Connie Ingmire and others admire the award she received Saturday from Secretary of State Wayne Williams. From left to right, Jean Danford, Shirley Kula, Ingmire and Bob Kula at the Kulas’ home in Fort Morgan. (SOS photo)

Colorado  Secretary of State Wayne Williams had an award to hand out to former Morgan County Clerk Connie Ingmire but he  wasn’t sure when and how to present it to her so she would get the recognition she deserved.

Ingmire unwittingly solved the problem when she asked the secretary to speak to the Morgan County Republican Women at their brunch Aug. 11 in Fort Morgan. She is club president.

Williams talked about the office and the services it provides for elections, business registrations, notary training and such.

Former Morgan County Clerk Connie Ingmire and Secretary of State Wayne Williams with the National Association of Secretaries of State Medallion Award. (SOS photo)

He also pointed out that when he was the El Paso County clerk and recorder and Ingmire held the same position in Morgan County, former Secretary of State Scott Gessler appointed them to a group to study election equipment. Williams continued the same committee when he became secretary of state in 2015, and Ingmire, although no longer a county clerk, agreed to serve.

“That’s why I was excited to come here, not just to visit you, but to give this award to Connie,” Williams said.

He then presented Ingmire with the National Association of Secretaries of State Medallion Award. Each secretary of state is allowed to give out five NASS awards annually  to a person or organization who has made a contribution to the office. Williams so far in his tenure has awarded four.

Club members applauded as Ingmire looked stunned. Her sister, Pat Samples-Ehrlich, had been tipped off and was in attendance.

“I was very surprised and very pleased,” Ingmire said afterward. “I’ve always considered Wayne Williams a wonderful state official. He does a lot to benefit the citizens of Colorado, as well as the Colorado County Clerks Association.”

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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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Grand County: bullets and ballots

Grand County Clerk Sara Rosene, chief deputy clerk Patty Brown and Secretary of State Wayne Williams outside a voter drop box in Hot Sulphur Springs.
Grand County Clerk Sara Rosene, chief deputy clerk Patty Brown and Secretary of State Wayne Williams outside a voter drop box in Hot Sulphur Springs.

Talk about the Wild West.

On July 4, 1883, four masked men gunned down Grand County’s clerk and recorder and two of its commissioners. One commissioner managed to get off a shot and killed an attacker. When the mask was removed, it turned out to be the third county commissioner.

The other suspected killers were believed to be the county sheriff, undersheriff and the undersheriff’s brother, although no one was tried for the crime.

What led to the attack was moving the county seat from Hot Sulphur Springs to Grand Lake the previous year. The commissioners who were ambushed supported the move; the commissioner with the mask wanted to stay in Hot Sulphur Springs. Several years after the shooting, the seat was moved back to Hot Sulphur Springs.

The current county clerk, Sara Rosene, provided that history when asked why Hot Sulphur Springs, pop. 639, was the county seat rather than, say, Granby, pop. 1,791.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ visited Hot Sulphur Springs last week when he met with the county clerk and checked out the election operation.

“It’s so nice to have the secretary of state here,” said Rosene, who has been the clerk for 25 years. “We’re so intertwined with that office.”

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