Joan Lopez, Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder
Democrat Joan Lopez worked in the office of the clerk and recorder of Arapahoe County for 17 years, most recently as a senior motor vehicle specialist, paying close attention to how things were done. Six years ago, she decided she wanted the top job, got organized and ran for the office, losing to Republican Matt Crane in 2014. In 2018 she tried again and won by 5,700 votes.
Lopez said that when she took office there was no leadership team in place, and that many top staff had left in 2017 and 2018. She looked at it as being positive, allowing her to form her own team, beginning with hiring Karl Herrmann as her chief deputy. Hermann said he had been the elections manager in the office but had left to become deputy city clerk in Denver.
Lopez said that working side-by-side with the staff for 17 years was the best preparation she could have had as the new clerk and recorder. “They know that I know what they go through. I have an open-door policy and people are comfortable walking in.”
She said she campaigned on improving voter access in underserved areas of the county. Pointing to Aurora, Lopez said that in 2017 there was only one voting center in the most highly populated area of Aurora, located at 490 S. Chambers Road.
She said that voting centers are very important for people who move a lot and may not receive a mail ballot. Lopez added that she had tried for years to get a voting center at the Martin Luther King Library at 9898 E. Colfax Ave. but was unable to do so. There was a voting center in 2018 nearby the library at the Dayton Street Opportunity Center at 1445 Dayton Street, but Lopez said the library location would have been better and more cost-effective.
Lopez is focused on cross-training all counter employees in the clerk’s office and making sure that every Arapahoe County resident who comes to a clerk’s window for any purpose, has their voter registration verified and updated.
She said that the Arapahoe County motor vehicle division served 1 million people in 2018. Some motor vehicle offices have had the ability to update voter records for some time, but the Aurora office did not have a policy or procedure to update voter records before her being elected. “It was apparently overlooked,” she said. “Now I get to change the things I’ve wanted to change, after hearing complaints for years.”
Lopez’ long term goal “is to have a work-family environment where people can bring forward ideas, are cross-trained and the department functions as an information resource.”
She added, “People should feel like there’s room for growth.” Hermann added, “Train people so that they can leave but treat them so that they stay.”
Hermann was happy to be back in Arapahoe County and looking forward to helping Lopez succeed. He said one of his goals is to develop video instructions for residents to show them how to register and vote, so they don’t have to read a long list of instructions.
Jennifer Roylance, executive assistant to Lopez, said that the Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder has registered 3,991 additional voters since Lopez took office in January.
On the subject of interactions with other county offices, Marissa Chamberlain, mapping and ballot systems lead for the elections division of the clerk’s office, said that she interacts with the assessor’s office regularly, because she is responsible for the accuracy of voters’ addresses. Chamberlain has also served as department coordinator with the county’s human resources division for the past five years. She mentioned that regarding the transition to a new county clerk, “I’m honored and happy to be here.”
Lopez meets regularly with the Board of County Commissioners, who approves the budget for her office. She added that the transition has been smooth and positive.
Michelle Halstead, director of communication and administrative services for the Arapahoe County commissioners, said she plans to coordinate with the county clerk’s communications staff person as soon as one is in place.
Lopez is focused on using her “fundamental knowledge of the department,” and “educating people in their rights.” She describes her philosophy as being focused on “accessibility and fostering ideas.”
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