It’s been quite a ride for La Paz County Recorder Shelly Baker. It comes to an end Jan. 1. After almost 15 years in office, Baker is retiring. Her Chief Deputy, Richard Garcia, was appointed Interim County Recorder in October.
Baker has lived in La Paz County since 1982, when it was still part of Yuma County. She was hired by the Assessor’s Office in January 1998. She decided to run for the position of Recorder in 2004, when Pat Wall announced she was retiring and would not seek another term.
When asked why she ran for Recorder, Baker said, “I thought I could do a good job.”
Baker was elected in 2004, and re-elected in 2008, 2012 and 2016.
Baker said she sought to make her office more accessible to the public. She described her philosophy as “Commitment to Excellence in Public Service.”
To that end, Baker said the biggest accomplishment of her time in office was making the whole process digital and making everything available on-line.
“This gives everyone access to our office 24/7,” she said. “It’s all free.”
Baker said documents printed off their website are unofficial. To have official copies, individuals would still need to come to the office and request them. There would also be a fee involved.
The system now also allows for electronic recording of documents through what Baker called a “trusted seller.”
“This is much faster and less expensive,” she said. “It has significantly reduced the amount of paper used.”
The office has scanned county maps into the system. Baker said she and her staff were working with Yuma County to have records dating before the creation of La Paz County in 1983 put into the system.
Baker said she’s proud of her office’s record on voting. Early voting has been expanded during her time in office, and they have done a lot to help people vote.
As examples, she said the office was able to get staff and a ballot to a La Paz County resident who was in the Intensive Care Unit at La Paz Regional Hospital. They also had an agreement with Yavapai County so a veteran from La Paz County could vote while he was in the Veterans’ Hospital there.
“We will bend over backwards to help people vote,” Baker said. “We do everything possible to make sure every vote counts.”
Baker said her office has been relatively free of controversy because what they do isn’t really controversial. However, there have been controversies.
The greatest controversy that occurred in the Recorder’s Office during Baker’s time there was the Quartzsite election of May 2012. In that election, Ed Foster won the most votes for Mayor. He was originally elected in 2010, but lost a recall election to Jose Lizarraga in 2011. Soon after the election, the Quartzsite Council and administration challenged the results, and said they had evidence of vote fraud.
A private investigations firm, Jim Humphreys Consulting, was brought in to investigate the matter. Baker said she welcomed the investigation as she was sure it would confirm the integrity of the elections process.
The private investigators found no evidence dead people voted, or that convicted felons who had not had their civil rights restored had voted. They found some convicted felons had voted, but they’d had their civil rights restored by other states. They also found people who voted who had their cars registered in other states, but they said this was a violation of motor vehicle laws, not election laws.
Foster and a Council Member who was elected in May 2012, Mark Orgeron, were declared ineligible for office by the Council. Both sued and won their cases. They were both seated in October 2012.
The Town of Quartzsite spend approximately $70,000 in the investigation. After looking into the matter, new Town Manager Laura Bruno concluded the Town Council never authorized the expenditures.
Baker said the stories of dead people voting came from a single early ballot that was mailed to a Quartzsite resident who had died between the time he requested the ballot and when the ballot was delivered to his home. The envelope was returned to the Recorder’s Office marked “deceased” and was never opened.
“We were investigated, and our department came out well,” Baker told the Pioneer. “It actually helped me.”
Baker said she plans to do various things in her retirement. She plans to do some writing and traveling, and she plans to spend time with her family.
Baker said the job of her office is to serve the residents of county.
“The taxpayer is the customer,” she said. “They should be treated with decency and respect at all times.”
“We tried our best to serve the taxpayers of La Paz County,” she said. “It’s been an honor and privilege to serve them.”