Among the offices on the June 5 ballot is Sonoma County clerk-recorder-assessor-registrar of voters.
It is, as one of the candidates quipped at a recent forum, the office with the longest title, but nobody knows what it does.
While it sounds a little bureaucratic, all of the duties are important to anyone who lives in Sonoma County or does business here.
The clerk-recorder — for brevity’s sake, let’s leave it at that — keeps records of property sales, fictitious business names, liens and all births, deaths and marriages. If you were married in a civil ceremony, an employee from the clerk’s office may have presided.
As assessor, the clerk-recorder is responsible for maintaining up-to-date and accurate appraisals of 183,000 parcels of land in Sonoma County and determining whether property owners qualify for various property tax exemptions and exclusions.
And, as they say on late-night TV ads, that’s not all.
The clerk-recorder also is the official responsible for conducting elections and ensuring the integrity of election results.
These functions once were divided among three elected officials, then two. Since 2006, they have been consolidated in a single office with 108 employees and a really long name.
Bill Rousseau, who has held the job since 2012, is stepping down at the end of his term. Three people — all of whom work in the clerk-recorder’s office — are running to succeed him.
They are Ray Leonard, the administrator for the clerk-recorder’s office; Deva Marie Proto, the chief deputy clerk-recorder; and Rod Marusic, an assessment process specialist.
Leonard, 54, has the most local government experience, with 14 years in the clerk-recorder’s office and more than 25 years working for Sonoma and Mendocino counties. In his present job, he deals with finances, human resources and training for all four divisions of the office. Leonard also has had inter-agency roles, and he worked on reapportionment of county supervisorial districts following the 2010 census.
Marusic, 53, is an immigrant from Slovenia and an electrical engineer by training. He has public and private sector experience on two continents, including working in real estate locally before taking a job in the assessor’s office in 2008. His job involves working with property owners and the real estate industry. He also is a steward for the union representing fellow employees.
Proto, 36, has been an employee of the office for nine years and chief deputy clerk for five. In that role, she helped bring the county’s recordkeeping systems into the digital age, making it more convenient to submit and obtain documents online while ensuring the safety and integrity of the system. An electronic signature option developed under her leadership has since been adopted for statewide use.
All three candidates have firsthand experience in conducting elections, which will be especially valuable as the responsibilities for the next clerk-recorder include rolling out a replacement for the county’s badly outdated voting system and managing upcoming changes in state election procedures.
And all three are experienced, knowledgeable government professionals with enthusiasm for their work, ideas for improving services in their office and a commitment to promoting greater participation in the democratic process.
But only one of them will be elected. And based on the breadth of his experience and his thorough knowledge of the duties and finances of the department, The Press Democrat recommends Ray Leonard for Sonoma County clerk-recorder-assessor-registrar of voters.