January will mark the first time in 41 years that Chaffee County Clerk and Recorder Joyce Reno will be absent from the clerk’s office.
The Salida native is retiring after spending nearly two-thirds of her life in the office and the past 16 years as clerk and recorder.
“I’ve always enjoyed being the county clerk,” she said. “I’ve always thought it an honor and a privilege to be an elected official serving the people of Chaffee County.”
In many ways it was a different job when Reno first started working in the office in 1974. There were no computers or copy machines so everything was done by hand, which can be a tall task in an office responsible for maintaining a vast array of records, she said.
If someone wanted a list of registered voters, an employee in the office had to write it on an electric typewriter. In those days the employees had to use their brain and skills, and in many ways Reno said she preferred it that way.
“I’m from the old school, and I have to do it the old-school way to make it work,” she said.
While she prefers to do things the “old-school way,” she’s kept pace with the seemingly endless legislative changes that impact the office. More times than not, she’s been at the forefront when it comes to implementing those changes, said Lori Mitchell, clerk-elect, whom Reno originally hired as an elections deputy in 2011.
“The office has gone through a lot of changes, and she was always up to the challenge. She always strived for the best,” Mitchell said.
With anywhere from 50 to 70 bills per year that could impact the office, it’s impossible to keep track of all the changes, but extensive election reform passed in 2013 was one of the bigger challenges, Reno said.
The new laws require mail ballots be sent to every voter in the state, and they extended the registration period through Election Day.
Throughout the reform process Reno pushed the county to the front lines and worked tirelessly with the state to make sure the county was in compliance with the laws, Mitchell said.
“She leads by example, and she’s left us in a good place for the future,” Mitchell said.
Reno has worked with numerous officials over the years, and she said she’s been lucky to have good working relationships with most of them.
“It’s been a very good experience,” said County Commissioner Frank Holman. “She’s always been helpful when we need anything from her, and she was always willing to work on whatever needed to be worked on. We’ll miss her when she’s gone.”
Over the course of 41 years a few memories stand out to Reno. In the 1996 election the county’s turnout rate exceeded 97 percent of registered voters, and employees had to transport extra ballots from precinct to precinct so they wouldn’t run out. The clerk’s office made it work, and none of the precincts ran out of ballots, she said.
Through the years, Reno always did what was needed, no matter how much work it required, Mitchell said.
“You could never have a greater mentor. She’s a committed public servant, and I have big shoes to fill,” Mitchell said.
Once retirement comes in January, Reno hopes to do some traveling with her husband, but first she wants to rest and spend time with her family. While it will be nice to relax, it’s difficult to walk away after 41 years, she said.
“I will miss seeing the people of Chaffee County who elected me, had faith in me and respected me the past 16 years,” she said. “Thank you, Chaffee County.”