Moffat County Locals: Lila Herod — A legacy of involvement
December 21, 2018
One way to think of Lila Herod is as a steady hand on the rudder that ensures Moffat County's elections are sailing on smooth waters.
Since she was first elected Moffat County Clerk & Recorder in 2010, one of Herod's most visible — and important — roles has been to ensure county voters can cast their ballots with the assurance they'll be handled carefully, accurately, fairly, and efficiently.
But, as the term-limited county official looks to her impending departure from an office she's run the past eight years and worked for just shy of three decades, she says she's most looking forward to putting in more time in another role — her favorite role.
"Kylee Jo's Grandma," she said, a broad smile brightening her face at the mention of her granddaughter's name. "That's the best title of all. … She's the boss of the whole, entire family, and we like it that way."
When asked about any other plans for retirement, however, Herod's response is essentially a blank slate.
"I feel like I need to take a couple of months to figure out who I am," she said. "This is pretty much the only career I've ever had."
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The feeling is understandable. Thirty years is, after all, a long time.
"Yeah, it is a long time," she agreed. "I'm like the lint around here, or the dust."
But one thing seems clear. Herod has no plans of going far, and she has no intention of disappearing from the community she's grown to love.
Look back to the lint and dust that was hanging around the Clerk & Recorder’s Office back in October 1989, and you'd see Lila Herod reporting for her first day of work at her new job — part-time clerk. From day one, she was immersed in what was to become her primary professional passion: elections.
"At that time, the secretary of state's office had just come out with a new statewide voter registration," she explained. "It was called COVERS … for Colorado Voter Registration, and so my first job was to take all the paper registrations for every voter and put them in that system."
As part of the same task, she also created the first system of "locators," or address libraries, to define the boundaries of the various precincts and special districts. Thanks in large part to this work, there are probably few who know the county any better than Herod.
"I had to learn how to read a map," she recalled. "And it's funny — even today, everybody will be like, 'I don't know what precinct I'm in,' and I'll say, 'Well, where do you live?' and generally, I can come up with where their precinct is just from their address."
Herod's path from part-time clerk to running the office was to take her through 20 years and several roles, and it was during those years she mastered many of the skills she so effortlessly employs today. Within a year of starting her new job, she was already beginning to work her way up the ladder.
"Jessie Rowley took office as the new clerk in 1990, and then, I started working for her full-time as her office bookkeeper and the election clerk," Herod said.
She would continue taking care of the office's bookkeeping work, as well as running the county's elections, for the next eight years, until, in 1998, she was named chief deputy by then-County Clerk & Recorder Beverly Johnson, a role she would continue under Elaine Sullivan, her direct predecessor.
"It was just sort of this natural progression," she said.
In 2010, she ran unopposed for county clerk & recorder and was, of course, elected. She was re-elected in 2014, again unopposed.
"And that's the end of the story," she said.
Only, it's not.
The eldest of six children, Herod was born in Utah, but her family relocated to Moffat County when she was only 5.
"My Dad was a farmer out west of town, so I grew up in the Lily Park area, went to school in Maybell — a little, small school," she recalled.
And when she says "little" and "small," she means it.
"My funniest story is that there was me and two Brians in the graduating class of eighth grade," she said.
Her parents divorced when she was 16, and soon after, she said, her entire family — with the exception of herself — left the state.
"… Everybody left me here in Colorado," she said. "Now, they're slowly coming back. I have a sister who came back and a younger brother who's back, so half of us are back in Craig. But I'm the only one who stayed and never left."
After her class-of-three, eighth-grade graduation from Maybell, Herod went on to attend and graduate Moffat County High School, and it was there she met her future husband, Joe, who these days works at Colowyo Coal Mine.
They married directly out of high school.
The couple has two children; their son, Casey, who is married to Cami, and daughter, Chelsey. Chelsey and her husband, Matt Hammer, are the parents of 6-year-old Kylee Jo, the aforementioned "boss of the whole, entire family."
While she is definitely looking forward to spending more time with her family — particularly Kylee Jo — Herod acknowledged she'll miss the job, at least, certain aspects of it. Most notably, she'll miss her interactions with people.
"Voters are great people," she said, "and I absolutely will miss the elections, and my election girl, Tori (Pingley). … I couldn't do this job without her."
Asked what she'll miss least, she replied, "Motor Vehicle."
She was quick to qualify, however, that she enjoys being able to help Motor Vehicle customers, most of whom are not thrilled to be there in the first place.
"Motor Vehicle is a division of Department of Revenue, so there's just that stigma that goes with Department of Revenue," she said. "You stand in line to get your driver's license, you stand in line to get your license plates, and we want more money, more money all the time, and I have empathy, because I don't like giving my money to the government either.
"Then, they don't have the right paperwork, or they didn't get their insurance, and it feels like just bureaucracy — that you're always being told, 'No, you need to go get more documents. No, we can't help you today; come back tomorrow. Bring more money.'"
She said she misses the earlier days, when regulations were not so stringent.
"When I first came here, things were a little bit more relaxed," she said. "… Like, you didn't have to provide ID, you weren't required to prove to us that you had insurance. If you were kind of having a rough time financially, we had the ability to extend your temporary permit and give you a little bit of time."
Not so now, she said, as the Department of Revenue has become much more strict in its enforcement policy, and to Herod's way of thinking, this can become an impediment to providing service, especially in a small community.
"When you live in a small town, you have relationships with the people, and you understand their circumstances and where they're coming from," she said. "And now, it feels like we have to be part of that big government that just says, 'No.'"
In addition to her various duties in the clerk & recorder’s office, Herod has also been involved in a number of committees and boards through the years.
"I've served on the Republican Central Committee since the mid ’90s," she said. "I got involved because I figured if I was going to be working in the election field, I should at least know what the word 'caucus' means. The first time I heard it, I thought it was a nasty word."
And her service work is not limited to politics.
"I served on United Way for 10 years, the Library Board for 12 years," she said, adding that she has also been involved in organizing the annual Festival of Trees throughout its seven-year lifetime.
"I like being involved in the community," she said. "I was over at the library the other day to check out some books and visiting with them, and, you know, that's a disappointment in what they're facing in the coming years, and she said they're going to be looking for volunteers, and I said, 'Put my name on the list! I would love to do storytime.'"
That's no surprise. It's pretty easy to envision Herod reading stories to a group of spellbound children.
It's part of who she is.
One of the things that comes across plainly during a conversation with her is her love for her work, particularly the parts that allow her to interact with and help the community.
And though her future plans are far from settled, it's a safe bet they'll include continuing to work toward the betterment of her community.
"There's always plenty to do in a small community," Herod said. "It's just getting involved."
So, after she takes time for "a big deep breath" Moffat County residents can expect to see Herod around, no longer in office, but still doing what she's done for the past 30 years — working to better her community.
"You know, you hope that you make a difference," she said. "I guess you never know if you do, but it certainly has been good to me."