District court clerk to retire after 30 years

Solveig Olson retired as clerk of the court, after nearly 30 years. She will stay on as court administrator.

Solveig Olson retired as clerk of the court, after nearly 30 years. She will stay on as court administrator.
RBC I If there has been one constant about Solveig Olson’s job she could always count on it was this — nothing stayed the same.
“This job has been ever changing. There’s nothing static about it,” Olson said. “But it’s been a great job.”
Since 1981, Olson had been the clerk for the combined district and county court at the Rio Blanco County Courthouse in Meeker. But after nearly 30 years, Olson retired from her role as clerk and Susan Mills, who has worked in the clerk’s office for the past 11 years, was sworn in as her replacement during a ceremony June 4.
“I think it will be challenging, but Solveig and the court have provided me with a good foundation,” Mills said. “It should be a pretty seamless transition. I have Solveig and a good support system. I’m looking forward to it.”
Olson, meanwhile, will continue in her other capacity as district administrator for the 9th Judicial District, which includes Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Meeker, Rangely and Rifle. She’s been serving in both capacities for the past 10 years.
As district administrator, she’s been responsible for management of the court staff in all five 9th Judicial District locations.
“I work closely with the chief judge (Jim Boyd of Aspen),” said Olson, who maintains an office in Meeker and one in Glenwood Springs, which is the main office for the 9th Judicial District.
During her time as clerk of the court, Olson has worked with four different chief judges, four Rio Blanco County sheriffs and a host of attorneys.
“All of the deputy district attorneys we’ve worked with, that list is huge,” Olson said.
“Solveig is very smart, very good with people,” said Joe Fennessy of Meeker, now a private-practice attorney and a former deputy district attorney. “She’s very dependable, constant, diligent.”
During her tenure as clerk, Olson has worked with four county court judges — Keith Dunbar, John “Jack” Herron, Jerry Viscardi and now Laurie Noble of Rangely.
“She was wonderful,” said former county judge Dunbar, who served six terms, from 1964 to 1989. “She was an exceptional person … she handled things very well, and with aplomb. She was the best. That’s the part of the job I miss most, was working with Solveig.”
Current county judge Noble added, “Solveig has always been an asset to the courts. She is dedicated, hard working and patient. Solveig has always exhibited exceptional qualities that benefit the workplace and she will continue to provide those qualities as district administrator, the job she has also been performing for more than 10 years. Susan has been with the courts for 10 years and has been very competent as a court clerk and will excel in her new position. As Solveig is not leaving the courts and Susan is now clerk of court, it is a win-win for Meeker.”
The district judges serving the 9th Judicial District rotate through the Rio Blanco County Courthouse every six months.
“They come up two Fridays a month for district court,” Olson said of the judges. “It’s their courtroom and they all have their own style and their own way of doing things.”
Olson replaced Jo Linden, who had been the previous clerk of the court.
“My sister Kris (Borchard) told me I should apply for it,” said Olson, whose first job in Meeker was working at the Upper Colorado Environmental Plant Center. “So I applied and got it.”
Olson moved to Meeker from Minnesota — hence her first name.
“It’s a family name,” she said, noting the “g” is silent. “It’s Norwegian. It means way of the sun. There were five Solveigs in my college dorm the first year. It wasn’t very odd there. Out here, it’s very odd.”
Olson didn’t “have a clue” when she started out in the clerk’s office, but she found she had what it took to do the job. Being a good clerk requires a diverse skill set.
“A good clerk is someone who needs to be very detail-oriented,” Olson said. “We have to be able to multitask. The nature of the work is there are a number of things going on at the same time. You have to be able to answer any question about any case. There’s a lot you have to know.”
There’s a very public aspect of the job, which requires the clerk and the office staff to deal with people who are involved in the court system.
“Public relations is a huge part of the job,” Olson said. “We have to be able to work with the public, and most of the people are not happy to be here. Defendants won’t yell at the judge very often, but they will yell at the clerk. You have to not take it personally and realize they are upset and try to get a resolution to whatever the problem is.”
However, giving legal advice is not part of the clerk’s job description. In fact, there’s a sign posted in the office to let people know the clerks can’t offer legal counsel.
“We get asked that all the time,” Olson said. “We can advise procedurally, but we’re not lawyers.”
Another important quality in a clerk of the court is having a sense of humor, Olson said.
“We deal with very serious things,” she said. “If you let it get to you, you would become a very cynical person.”
Having a good team to work with is also important.
“We’ve been together for a long time,” said the new clerk Mills. “Everyone gets along so well, which is important because court days can be really stressful.”
Joanie Jensen is the other full-timer in the clerk’s office.
“They used to be called deputy clerks,” Olson said of the positions held by Jensen and formerly by Mills, before her promotion. “Now they’re called court judicial assistants. It was just a change in title, really.”
During Olson’s time as clerk, there have been several high-profile cases come through the Rio Blanco County courtroom.
“We’ve had several murder cases,” Olson said. “There was one in Rangely where a man killed his wife. That one went to a jury trial. There was a hunting incident out on Piceance, where a Mr. Cordero killed someone in his hunting party. We had a dog fighting case in Rangely that drew a lot of attention. The case was heard here and the courtroom was always packed. There was also a case from Aspen that was moved to Meeker in a change of venue and again the courtroom was packed. It involved a Japanese socialite. She would have her big fur coat on and she would have her entourage with her. The courtroom would be packed with people just wanting to see who she was.”
Living in a small town, Olson frequently is asked about cases going through the court system. But her role prohibits her from talking about them.
“Oh, yeah, in a small town they are going to hear,” she said. “The word gets out. But integrity is very important. We have rules regarding confidentiality.”
While Olson was ready to relinquish at least one of her roles, there are aspects of the job she’ll definitely miss.
“I’ll miss the daily challenge of assisting people who are dealing with legal problems and trying to make their way through the system,” Olson said. “I’ll miss my co-workers and the team we’ve worked so hard to establish and maintain. I’ll miss my daily contact with local agencies and law enforcement personnel and the experiences we have shared over the past 29 years. I’m proud to have served the Colorado Judicial Department and wish continued success to my predecessor.
“It feels good leaving the office in such capable hands,” she said.