Newcomer Griswold plans a fast start as next secretary of state

Secretary of State-elect Jena Griswold.

Secretary of State-elect Jena Griswold on Wednesday announced new staff members who will join her after she takes office on Jan. 8.

Her hires include:

  • Jenny Flanagan, vice president of state operations for Common Cause, will become deputy secretary of state, replacing Suzanne Staiert, who has been in that position since around 2010. Flanagan was executive director of Colorado Common Cause from 2006 to 2011. 
  • Shad Murib, who worked on the campaign of Gov.-elect Jared Polis, will become the government and public affairs manager, handling the office's legislative agenda. Murib previously served as chief of staff for the Senate Democrats. He replaces Tim Griesmer.
  • Serena Woods, who served as deputy campaign manager for Cary Kennedy's gubernatorial run, will be the new communications director, replacing Lynn Bartels. Prior to working on Kennedy's campaign, Woods was on the staff of Hilltop Public Solutions.

Bartels told Colorado Politics Wednesday she knew Griswold would bring in her own people, although "[Griswold] was told by Democrats who voted for Williams that she should keep me."

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Griswold also named Ben Schler as a senior advisor. Schler has been the legal and policy manager for the secretary of state's office since April, and previously worked in the elections division for seven years.

In a news release, Griswold said she ran on a "pledge to make sure that our state has a democracy that all Coloradans can believe in. This team will help me protect our elections and increase voter turnout, fight secret political spending and improve transparency in politics, and provide Colorado’s small businesses and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to succeed.”

She also complimented the previous staff members, saying they and "the dedicated county clerks have helped make Colorado’s elections some of the most secure and accessible in the country. I look forward to working together to take our state to the next level."

Among Griswold's picks, Flanagan holds the highest profile as a longtime champion of campaign finance reform. But she also holds another distinction; while Staiert is a licensed attorney, Flanagan is not. Her law license was suspended for nonpayment of dues, although the state Supreme Court's website doesn't say when.

Griswold told Colorado Politics Wednesday that Flanagan let the license lapse while she was out of state and has since paid the dues in anticipation of having her license renewed.

Update: as of 4 p.m. Wednesday, Flanagan's law license, as listed by the Colorado Supreme Court, is current and active.

Griswold said that it's normal for a new administration to bring in its own team.

"I'm excited about the team -- Flanagan has more than 15 years experience in working on democracy issues," she said, including the work with Common Cause, both in Colorado and at the national level, and as a manager as well as an expert in campaign finance and elections.

"Her experience is what I want to bring to this office, which I see as opening access to democracy, whether it's elections, campaign finance -- when voices are drowned out by special interests -- or in business. Her core values and experience align with the core mission," Griswold said.

Her pick of Schler as senior advisor reflects her belief in promoting internally whenever possible, and she said she had asked Judd Choate, who has been director of the elections division since 2009, to stay on as well. Schler's role will provide consistency among the senior staff, Griswold added.

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