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County elections chief to retire in summer

Janice Atkinson, Sonoma County's clerk, recorder, assessor and registrar of voters, has announced her plans to retire this summer.

Atkinson, 58, began her career in 1972 as a temporary elections clerk and is one of the longest serving employees in the county's workforce.

She will be 19 months into her second term in the elected Clerk-Recorder-Assessor's office when she steps down in July.

She has backed Ray Leonard, an administrative manager in the office, to be her successor for the remainder of the term. The decision is up to the Board of Supervisors.

Atkinson said her decision to step down was driven by the expected arrival of a grandchild and the completion of several county projects.

This year, those included electoral redistricting and the implementation of "top-two" elections, in which the two leading vote getters in a primary can face off against each other in a runoff, regardless of party affiliation.

The changes have redrawn political boundaries and scrambled county, state and national races.

"I get to go out with a bang," Atkinson said of the election season.

Atkinson played a lead role in the reorganization of California's election code in the mid-1990s and is recognized as an expert in state voter registration law.

"She's been a resource not only to our county but to all counties throughout California," said Sonoma County Administrator Veronica Ferguson, who called Atkinson's planned retirement "a tremendous loss."


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