Thursday, May 3, 2012

Get Into Dodge

I've been in this job long enough that I've lost track of a couple of things about the annual May conference I'm attending right now.

First, it's a conference of all 105 county clerks and the four election commissioners in Kansas.  Election commissioners are appointed by the Secretary of State in the four largest counties and the elected county clerk pulls double-duty in the other 101 counties.

The conference includes annual training required by law in association with the Help America Vote Act.  The "lost track" part comes from where it is required, in federal or state law.  I've lost interest in looking up that (I think it's state law) because the training is non-optional.

It's good, also.  The Secretary of State's office has a small elections staff and each member is incredibly bright, competent, and even-keel.  They are great role models.

The training provides a good time to understand legal and process changes and I always have a running list of topics I'd like to catch one one or more of them on and here they provide me a fish-in-a-barrel opportunity.

I've also lost track of where we were in a particular year.  The conference rotates and has been in Salina, Great Bend, Topeka, Manhattan, and Hutcheson (I was reminded of that yesterday).

I remember 2010 being in Topeka just because that year our office planned to rent a car for four of us to go and when I arrived at Enterprise, our Chevy Blazer, instead, was a Hummer.

Earlier that year, the Republican Secretary of State who had appointed me to my first term in 2005, Ron Thornburgh, unexpectadly resigned to take a great job at NIC and the Governor had just appointed Democrat Chris Biggs to fill the term.   I strive to be apolitcal in my job and I didn't want his first impression of me honking and waving as I entered the parking lot driving a Hummer with gas at $4 a gallon.

So, we squeezed into my Kia. 

Loaded up, and the reason
This year, the meeting is in Dodge City, about a 6-hour drive from Johnson County.  It probably seems incongruous to my Hummer story (and it's not because the current Secretary of State is a Republican) but this time we took a chartered bus.

I knew I wouldn't be able to drive following ankle surgery and I wasn't too keen on asking any of my staff to drive.  Right or wrong, I think it's incredulous to ask subordinates to haul around their boss and carry his things.  I'd have no problem driving them, but I think it's an unfair exercise of power to expect them to drive me.  I also, as an example, don't get my shoes shined at airport stands.

Plus, any car would be impossibly cramped with four of us going and there really wouldn't be any room for my gimp toys--scooter, crutches, and such. 

We knew we'd have to rent a vehicle (a van at least) and we rented a shuttle bus with a driver, the smallest bus available, and offered to pick up others on the way. 

We stopped at Shawnee County and picked up my peer there (election commissioner and current IACREOT president Libby Ensley).

The bus that came was much bigger than what we ordered and paid for.  Our driver, as it turns out, has been an election worker in Johnson County.  He has been terrific.  We're all refreshed, ready to learn.  We saw everyone last night at a reception hosted by Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
I'll take some photos and post them later.  For now, I've posted photos from our first day.

The bus driven by Garry, below, a former Johnson
County election worker.  He's been terrific.

Photos of Shawnee County's election office.
It's very small and, just like our office, is, um,
kind of doggy for such an important
government function.