In somewhat of a surprise announcement, Kane County’s Clerk Auditor (CA) Karla Johnson has declared that she will not be pursuing her final term in office; rather, she intends to let this term finish out and retire. Another member of the CA’s office, Chameill Lamb, has filed as a write-in candidate in her place, and currently runs unopposed. Johnson has a long legacy with Kane County - upon retiring she will have been the Clerk Auditor for 32 years. She’s seen multiple entire commissions come and go and has been a major factor in the electoral traditions of Kane County. She has been either a judge or a clerk in every Kane County election since 1980.
“I’m stepping out of the way so some exceptionally skilled people can step in,” Johnson says. “Chameill is extremely bright. I have a young staff, but they’re brilliant.”
Elections, to a certain extent, are where a political career started for Karla Johnson. “Working in the elections are what introduced me to county politics in the first place. I’ve been a part of every local election for 40 years; I’ve seen our elections go from paper ballots, to punch cards, touch screen electronics, back to paper ballots for mail in - I’ve got to say, the election system as we have it now is the best we’ve ever seen.” Just weeks ago, Johnson was heard in open meeting with Congressman Stewart fighting federal legislation that would impose other states’ electoral standards on Utah.
When asked about highlights of her career, Johnson had a lot to say; “There have been a lot of ups and downs. The electoral system has been such a learning curve, but it’s the best we’ve had.” She went on, “We have such great leaders in our county. The RS-2477 issue is very close to my heart, and I’m so grateful to the commissioners who carried that burden. Our current commissioners are excellent - they may have gotten a bum rap lately, but they really are good at what they do … but I think my favorite relationships in my office have been with my sheriffs. Kane County has had the best sheriffs in the state … I honestly believe Tracy Glover is the best sheriff in the country. Usually, sheriffs and clerk auditors don’t get along … but our sheriffs have always been great, and I believe in making sure they’re equipped with the tools they need to do their jobs right.”
Johnson was the first official to win the Johnny Jones Press Association Award, and present a speech to the association about developing working relationships with government officials, prioritizing those relationships and how they could benefit the leadership and people of a governed body like a county. She was also clerk for the State Association of Counties for a year, then a member of the board of directors for many years after. She was president of the Clerk Auditor’s Association for years as well.
Those were the “ups;” when asked about the “downs,” Johnson stated she had one regret. “My only regret is not keeping a journal. I have seen such a widespread slice of our history … I wish I could have recorded it all. I’ve seen this office go from a single dumb terminal to complicated networked electronics with computers. Did you know I owned the second PC in the entire courthouse? I bought it myself and set it up to take minutes with - this was back in 1997.”
After all this, Johnson answered the key question that brought her history with the county to the forefront: why retire now, with a whole final term ahead? “It’s the right thing to do. It’s for the sake of stability; this decision makes the whole environment of this office more stable going forward, a more stable environment for terrific, terrific employees to work in going forward. This office is in good hands - and Chameill is in good hands too. Between the other experienced county officials, the sheriff, the commissioners … there’s a lot of experience here to rely on.”
Finally, Johnson addressed her plans going forward. “I have a lot of options. It was a sudden decision to retire now, but I knew I’d be leaving after one more term anyway so I’ve been preparing; I could go to school and finish my education. If I finish my masters I can teach political science. Either way, my main plan is to spend time with my grandkids and my husband - he’s already had two transplants, and I’m just so lucky to have him for a third time. I’ve already had to lose him twice … and I’ve got some things to take care of myself, things that I could never have taken all this time off work for.”
As a farewell, Johnson permitted this SUN reporter to view the Clerk Auditor’s office vault, responsible for keeping a host of the county’s important records safe and preserved. Of particular note were the county commission minutes - there was a small demarcation to note the shift between clerk auditors, essentially noting the time between when the county started recording such minutes and when Karla Johnson began keeping them. The latter section was almost double the size of the former.
We wish Karla the best of luck with her retirement, and best of luck to soon-to-be Clerk Auditor Lamb as she steps in.