Everybody's heard of the clerk-recorder's job, but few people fully understand it. It's really three jobs in one, said Steve Weir, who's about to retire after 23 years at the post for Contra Costa County.
In overseeing the registrar's office, he manages voter registration, ballot petitions and elections. As recorder, he safeguards deeds and property records. As clerk, he is the custodian of birth, death and marriage certificates.
To do the job correctly, he said, you need to be detail-oriented, politically neutral and perseverant. ("You don't know the job until you've been here eight years," he said. "You need to go through two gubernatorial and presidential primary and general elections.")
To apply for the job, on the other hand, the demands are simpler.
"The requirements for office are minimal: at least 18 years old, registered voter, resident of the county," Weir said. "It's the Jacksonian theory that anybody can do it."
For that reason, Human Resources Director Ted Cwiek expected a larger number of candidates than the 18 who applied to succeed Weir. "We sometimes get hundreds and hundreds of applicants for one position," he said.
But if the number is a surprise, so is the unlikely pool of characters whose application will be reviewed by county supervisors beginning Tuesday. One of them most recently was a bus driver, another a security guard. A third was an assistant manager at a storage facility and a fourth a salesperson at a department store. They must think Andrew Jackson was right.
Those are honorable professions, to be sure. Any work is good work, as they say. But they don't resonate as training grounds for safeguarding vital documents and preserving election integrity.
Also among the field are four residents of other counties, which not only disqualifies them but suggests they are not terribly detail-oriented.
Weir says the ideal candidate should be someone willing to stay for the long haul because the duties of the office take time to digest. Oops, that might wipe out another applicant whose résumé shows three different jobs in the last three years.
Presumably, someone from among the unlikely 18 will rise to the top during the next several weeks -- interviews are scheduled for Feb. 26 and an appointment for March 19 -- but for now the list seems top-heavy with not-ready-for-prime-time players.
It's no surprise that people from all walks of life have thrown their hats in the ring. A salary of nearly $150,000 is enough to make anybody take an interest in the job. Less understood, Weir suspects, are some of the rigors of the position.
"You're managing a fair chunk of money -- a $14 million budget -- and the equivalent of 86 full-time employees," he said. "The big thing is conducting elections," he said. "I think most people understand going to the polls. I'm not sure they understand having to recruit 2,500 poll workers and coming up with 600 poll sites."
But 18 people are willing to give it a whirl. One of them -- perhaps the most unexpected of all -- is Weir's older brother, Jack Weir, a Pleasant Hill councilman.
"My brother's entering this was an absolute surprise," Steve Weir said.
It won't be the last one. Wait until the supervisors come across the résumé of one candidate who prepped for running county elections by working as a camp counselor the last six years.
Contact Tom Barnidge at firstname.lastname@example.org