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The two months since Sharon Stover relinquished her role as chair of the Los Alamos County Council and took up the duties of county clerk have been anything but dull. In addition to learning what her new position entails, she has overseen two elections and joined other county clerks in lobbying during the state legislative session.
“I’m really amazed at how much really goes on in the office,” Stover said. “Everyone thinks of the clerk’s office as having an election, and if you’re not doing an election, just what are you doing? Well, there’s a tremendous amount of recordation, recording of various documents. Because of the system, the clerk’s office holds all these documents. It’s just a hub of where information is held.
“People will be looking for a marriage license; they’ll be looking for mortgages. We get public information requests. There’s always some sort of activity going on there.”
The county clerk is also the clerk to the probate judge, with staff serving as probate deputies. They are responsible for signing letters of testamentary or administration.
In addition to routine daily activities, staff is also working to get all documents recorded prior to electronic recordkeeping entered into a computerized database.
“We’re trying to get everything so it’s easier access for the public. The public can get on this system in real time and find these documents,” Stover said.
As if that wasn’t enough to juggle, staff is also preparing for the upcoming move to the new municipal complex.
Stover’s inbox held a long list of that day’s emails. “Everybody copies the clerks in our internal emails, so all of the staff knows what’s going on with a particular request for information or something that comes up, which I think is really good.”
Stover is impressed by how staff uses that practice and others to create an efficiently run office.
“I was calculating, I think there’s over 55 years of county clerk expertise and experience in the office.”
Apparently, Stover is not alone in her high opinion of the clerk’s staff. She commented to State Sen. Daniel Ivy Soto that she thought the Los Alamos clerk’s office had the best staff, and he responded, “You do. The best in the state.”
Despite two years of meeting challenges as council chair, including leading the county through the Las Conchas fire, Stover still had butterflies in her stomach when it was time to announce election results.
“I had butterflies going through it those final days, because you saw the volume of people coming in, along with what we would get through the mail,” Stover said. “What is required to make that ballot count is so important, and it’s all done by law. The law is adhered to.
“Then seeing the day the election workers came in, and the work that they had to do, and how people value their roles in that whole process … When you do see the end result of it you see just how important people’s votes are and how important it is for people to vote.”
When Stover saw how something like forgetting to sign a ballot could invalidate a citizen’s vote, she worked with Elections Manager Gloria Maestas to draw up and publish a list of dos and don’ts for making your vote count.
Stover praised the county’s electoral procedures.
“I was just really impressed at the whole process, the checks and balances and just how you can track where a ballot is,” Stover said, citing an example of how staff was able to locate a voter’s ballot that had been returned as undeliverable due to an error on the voter registration card.
Stover’s responsibilities are stepped up during the legislative session.
“Because there’s an affiliate of the New Mexico county clerks, I’ve been participating with that in terms of the legislature and what bills are going forth. There are several bills that we are interested in,” Stover said. “There are a lot of little fixes, little tweaks. Election code is always kind of being fixed.”
In addition to a network of communication about various issues related to their work, county clerks throughout New Mexico work collectively to support legislation that affects elections or their offices, such as a bill to clean up the election code or one that addresses charges for filling requests for large amounts of documentation.
Stover is actively lobbying for a bill that would allow school elections to be held in tandem with other elections. One line in a state statute currently prohibits that. The separation dates back to when women were first given the vote, but were only allowed to vote in school elections.
Stover plans to increase her knowledge by attending a four-day training for county clerks sponsored by the New Mexico Association of Counties in March.