By David Rummel
Jean Alberico is the longtime Garfield County Clerk, and she’s going to miss the job.
“I’ve loved this job from the get-go because there is so much interaction with the public,” she says.
But, after 40 years working in the office and 16 as the county clerk and recorder, she plans to retire this year.
As a Democrat in a job that requires campaigning, she says she has strived to be absolutely neutral and nonpartisan at work, focused on providing great customer service and conducting “very transparent and fair elections.”
The controversy over voting security in neighboring Mesa County has not surfaced in Garfield County.
Before the 2020 presidential election, she says she did receive a few warning notes, “saying, ‘You need to watch out you’re going to be next.’” She says the same notes were sent across the state and that she didn’t feel threatened.
She has no patience, however, with those who believe the “Big Lie” that Joe Biden stole the election.
She personally fielded calls from people who believe it and has patiently explained how voting certification works and invited them to observe the process.
She knows that the county grows more conservative and Republican as you travel west, so she paid special attention to the polling stations there.
“I made sure that I had a couple of extremely well-known Republican citizen judges out front greeting people. Some people would come with their MAGA hats on and their buttons and stuff and they would just joke with people. Or people didn’t want to wear their masks, which was mandated. The judges handled it so well and we just didn’t have issues and problems.” She says, “People are just really comfortable if they come in and they know these people, they’re their friends and neighbors, they have a good experience if they are voting.”
The county clerk and recorder’s office now has a staff of 21 people, including five based in Rifle. The office oversees and certifies elections, runs Department of Motor Vehicle transactions for the county, records real estate transactions, accepts liquor license applications and records marriage licenses.
Alberico says her office has navigated a lot of changes over the past 40 years. In 2013, when the state transitioned to universal mail-in ballots and same-day voter registration, she says she never received so many phone calls and emails.
“People were just freaked out if there wasn’t a deadline that if you weren’t registered by, you couldn’t vote. If you met the residency requirement, you could register to vote on election day. ‘Oh my goodness, they are going to be bringing busloads of people in from Utah’ and stuff. And all the data has shown that people who register to vote on election day are not primarily one party or the other … Everybody takes advantage of it.”
In 2014, she discovered that trusted employees were embezzling funds in the motor vehicle department.
“It was very hard, but I was committed to making sure that we let the public know what was happening, and they were prosecuted to the fullest extent … I didn’t try to sweep it under the rug.”
The discovery led to a revamping of how financial transactions are done in the office.
Alberico says she does conduct voting education outreach in the community and has made ongoing efforts to serve the Latino community, which comprises an estimated 30% of the county’s population.
There are state mandated Spanish language ballots at polling stations, four of her staff members are bilingual and, she says, “I try really hard to get student judges because a good portion of those are bilingual kids. They are just invaluable to have at polling stations.”
Alberico is proud of the 70-80% voter turnout rate in major elections in the county and she hopes that whomever is elected as the new county clerk and recorder will rely on the knowledge of the experienced staff she has assembled.
In the meantime, this Glenwood Springs native and longtime Carbondale resident is looking forward to enjoying time with her husband and eight grandchildren.