Simonton’s pleased to run unopposed
EAGLE COUNTY ” Teak Simonton did her homework before running for office. The job of Eagle County Clerk and Recorder was still a surprise.
“This job is more interesting and challenging than I thought it would be,” she said. “I thought there would be exciting moments, but it’s never dry, and I thought it would be sometimes.”
Simonton was careful about running for office.
Former clerk Sara Fisher, then a Republican, was retiring due to term limits. Simonton, then a district manager for IntraWest, was told by her sister-in-law and a couple of other people she should look into running for the job.
Simonton interviewed Fisher and Johnnette Phillips, another former clerk. She also talked to the county clerks in Routt and Pitkin counties.
“I wanted to know what the job was like, and the skills needed to do it,” Simonton said. “There are a lot of parallels between successful business practices and what skills are needed in this job.”
A lot of those skills involve customer service.
“Just because we’re a monopoly doesn’t mean we don’t have to provide good service,” she said.
To that end, Simonton has expanded the office hours at the Eagle, Avon and El Jebel locations. Employees at the clerk’s offices also wear name tags these days.
Sometimes Simonton will spend time at the customer service counters. She’s been known to issue license plates and take care of the paperwork for automobile title transfers.
For about six months every other year, though, Simonton’s own job is singular: handling elections.
“You work six months to put on event, and you have one chance to get it right,” she said.
Running elections involves knowing the laws, knowing what changes to the law have come along, and recruiting election judges, among other things.
This year, it also involves using a brand-new electronic voting system. Those systems were the subject of a recent state lawsuit to block their use. A Denver judge allowed counties to continue to use the electronic systems, but ordered Colorado Secretary of State Gigi Dennis to come up with new security procedures.
“I just got 18 pages of them today,” Simonton said. “Fortunately, we already have many of them in place.”
Simonton said she started emphasizing security and secure systems before the 2004 election.
“It’s all about transparency, and the public perception nobody can get access to sensitive information,” she said. She also offered to explain the security systems to anyone who’s interested.
While elections may be the highest-profile part of Simonton’s job, there’s more to it, including:
People understand the “clerk” part of Simonton’s job title. But what does her office record? Just about anything, it turns out.
“Any time you buy a house, get married, refinance a house, all that paperwork ends up here,” Simonton said. “Condo associations record their bylaws, and we get maps and plats from developers and property owners. We’ll accept just about anything.”
Simonton’s office has all kinds of historical documents, all of which has been scanned and put into a computer database.
“I found the first marriage license issued in Eagle County not long ago,” Simonton said. “It was from 1882. Going back through the old books, you notice their handwriting was very good.”
More than half of Simonton’s 22 employees deal with license plates and the other official paperwork involved in owning, buying and selling vehicles. That’s harder than it sounds, especially since Colorado has a remarkable number of license plates available for sale.
Simonton acknowledged she isn’t entirely sure how many license plates are available this year ” there are literally dozens ” but said she intends to learn more about that part of the job in her second term.
The county clerk, or an employee in the office, also takes the minutes at Board of County Commissioners meetings. Simonton said there aren’t many dull moments in what can be hours-long sessions.
The office also handles the paperwork for liquor licenses for the unincorporated parts of the county.
“We shuffle a lot of paperwork,” she said.
Over the next four years, Simonton said she wants to keep learning, and keep refining what her office does.
“I could be clerk for the next 20 years and never have the elections exactly the way I want them,” she said. “We’re getting there, though.”
And she wonders what it would be like to have an opponent this fall.
“It’s nice not to have an opponent,” she said. “It would be really hard to run for office and do all this work. I know I’d be doing this work instead of campaigning.”
Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vail Daily, Vail Colorado
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