It started as I looked at our manager of election workers, Matt Woehrle, at the sound board, pulling temporary duty as an engineer.
Matt has been with our office for a few months now, but first worked for us in 2007 on a part-time basis before landing a full-time job with the Wyandotte County Election Office. He represents, actually, what those of us longer-term administrators have envisioned--rising talent intent on building a career in election administration.
In fact, our office is morphing into one with many such employees, and that should be very comforting to Johnson County voters.
But that's the entry into the thought, not the point of the post.
Matt came in 2007 to work on what I called an election roadmap, a document that began looking at the future of elections (not equipment, but societal trends that might impact election administration) and how Johnson County should respond.
It was an ambitious project, and we made some progress before Matt went to do real work in the Here and Now.
When I began seeing the need for this work, I met with then Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, pulled out a book called "Seeing What's Next" and explained my concerns. I thought we should hire a consultant to help us, but we didn't have any money for such a thing.
"Do you?," I asked Ron.
"Maybe," he said. "And there might be other sources, such as 'Pugh'."
I later dug around and began learning about PEW Center for the States and while I saw the good work PEW did, I didn't see an immediate connection. At least I knew what PEW was. (I lead a sheltered little life in Kansas).
Through fate, or through Ron maybe, I became connected some with PEW in 2008 and over the years have worked with the Elections Initiatives practice considerably.
So it was, as I looked at Matt last Wednesday, I realized that this MEOC conference was an output of my involvement with PEW.
Many of the terrific speakers were with organizations that were funded in some way, at least partially, by PEW. David Becker from PEW spoke. And those speakers who were not associated with PEW came because of relationships I had developed by working with PEW.
I've always been skeptical of the benefits from some of the "Leadership XYZ" community programs, but have heard from graduates that they built relationships and contacts that have helped them tremendously.
I'm still not sure, but I can say that this feeling I have with PEW has to be similar. Or, better.
The conference had more than 200 attendees from Missouri, Kansas, and Iowa, as well as election vendors. The information came at everyone through a fire hose, one terrific speaker after another.
My mission, selfishly, was to provide my staff with a first-class election administration education opportunity. To attract the speakers, we needed a wider net of attendees, so the speakers could see their reach was wide.
The room represented administrators for more than two million voters, and election administration for those two million voters will be better in 2016 than in 2012, to some degree, because of the conference. I'm convinced of that.
I'm also convinced that I am lucky to have a peer group of election administration leaders I'm proud to call friends, I'm so thankful they came to speak.
Regular readers of this blog know that I typically don't like to name people in posts and by listing Matt early on, that was really the precursor to me listing below the speakers and panel leaders, and friends, whom I'm so grateful:
Tammy Patrick, Christy McCormick, Matt Masterson, Tom Hicks, Monica Crane Childers, Stephanie Sharp, Micheal Mahoney, Kyle Dubbert, Andrew Howell, Don Pyle, Martin White, Susan Greenhalgh, Paul Pate, Kris Kobach, Jason Kander, Tabitha Lehman, Shelley McThomas, Grant Veeder, Whitney May, Tianna Epps-Johnson, Kurt Sampsel, Susan Greenhalgh, David Becker, Wendy Underhill, Will Kraus, Mitch Holmes, Keith Esau, Julia Lynn, John Muante, Christopher Famighetti, and Amber McReynolds.
They made the conference more successful than I could have ever imagined. Now, on to 2016! Many photos from the conference can be found through #MEOC2015 on Twitter. Below shows the room layout and audience, as well as a couple from the Wednesday entertainment of The Capitol Steps.