[Image via columbiatribune]
The election world suffered a huge loss this weekend with the death of longtime Boone County, MO Clerk Wendy Noren. The Columbia Tribune has more:
Former Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren, who served in office for 33 years and was nationally and internationally known for her election expertise, died Sunday at age 63.
Noren retired at the end of June because of poor health. She was first elected in 1982 and re-elected eight times, usually without opposition.
“She was just an amazing woman,” said Colleen Coble, a close friend and former member of the Columbia City Council. “Most of the community knows what a phenomenal public servant she was and a few of us were lucky enough to know what an amazing friend she was.”
Noren was raised in Jefferson City, the daughter of Carl Noren, director of the Missouri Department of Conservation from the mid-1960s until the late 1970s. She was hired by then-clerk Chris Kelly to be deputy clerk in 1978.
“When she came to Boone County as my chief deputy she reprogrammed our entire election system herself,” Kelly said Sunday. “She programmed it herself to make sure it was tamper proof. She remained absolutely on the cutting edge of getting it right.”
Noren is survived by a son, Brennan Noren Rose, of Columbia; her mother, Anna Noren of Columbia; three sisters, Jane Noren Davis of Charlottesville, Va., Carol Lockman of Athens, Ga., and Laura Noren of Columbia; and a brother, David Noren of Gaston, Ore. Arrangements for a memorial service were incomplete on Sunday evening, David Noren said.
Noren had battled nonmetastatic squamous cell carcinoma since 2013 and sought re-election in 2014 while receiving treatments. David Noren said she visited Gulf Shores in Alabama in the last month and returned home about a week ago.
“Right up to the last she maintained her wit and sense of humor,” he said. “She was tough but she always enjoyed herself.”
Georganne Nixon, wife of former Gov. Jay Nixon, was a childhood friend of Noren’s and they remained close throughout her life.
“Wendy was a dear friend to me, and she loved her life’s calling of public service,” Georganne Nixon said Sunday evening in a text message.
During her career, Noren worked at the local, state and national levels to improve election processes. She traveled frequently to Washington, D.C., in 2001 and 2002 to work on the Help America Vote Act, passed in response to the problems that left the presidential election of 2000 in limbo for weeks during legal battles over a Florida recount.
Noren went overseas in 1997 as an international election observer in Albania and did so again in Bosnia in 2001.
In her capacity as president of the National Association of Counties, former Boone County Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller appointed Noren to serve as one of the organization’s representatives on the U.S. Assistance Commission Board of Advisors.
Noren remained active on that board until her retirement. During a May 2017 meeting, she described problems she had receiving timely delivery of ballots mailed from overseas and online voter registration sites that mimic official sites but do not report the registrations.
She also corrected a presenter who said state election officials run elections.
“Actually county people run the elections,” Noren said.
At that meeting, Noren also displayed what reporters who covered her learned quickly — she had little tolerance for imprecise or foolish statements.
Geoff Hale, information security strategist at the Enterprise Performance and Management Office in the National Protection and Programs Directive, Office of Cybersecurity and Communications in the Department of Homeland Security, was asked what he knew about Russian hacking of voter systems in 2016.
“What we saw were the cyber incidents on two state voter registration databases where we saw ex-filtration of data but not manipulation,” he said.
“Will you put that in English?” Noren asked.
That exchange was very much in character, David Noren said. It showed how thorough she was, he said.
“She would usually, almost always, be the only one to read through the entire document of whatever it is,” David Noren said.
In her first run for office, Noren faced Kay Murray in the Democratic primary election. Murray, who had previously worked in the clerk’s office, said she was soundly defeated by Noren and in retrospect, is pleased with the turnout. Murray was elected Boone County treasurer at the next election.
“I was happy every day since I lost that election that she won,” Murray said in June when Noren announced she was retiring.
Noren sought out and recruited candidates for election at all levels. Coble, who has been the executive director of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence since 1989, said Noren encouraged her to run for city council and then helped show her how to organize a campaign.
“She was very committed to helping other women run for office,” Coble said. “One, that they could do it, and two, in making sure in every way they could be successful.”
Noren was a staunch Democrat but never let partisanship intrude on her management of her office, Kelly said.
“One time people were complaining because the results were not very fast,” he said. “She said do you want them fast or want them right.”
Wendy’s legacy to the community is immeasurable; so many of the supposedly “cutting edge” ideas in play today in the election field were pioneered in Boone County thanks to her foresight – and ferocious dedication to the work. She will be sorely missed. My condolences to her family – and also to so many people in the extended election family who adored her and mourn her passing.