Portland's new city clerk dives into election planning

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PORTLAND — When Katherine Jones stepped into the position of city clerk at the beginning of the year, she got to work researching ways to save the city money in the upcoming mayoral elections.

On April 4, Jones was officially appointed city clerk by the City Council. She replaced Linda Cohen, who left after 11 years running the busy office.

In an interview this week, Jones said she is developing a plan that so far will save the city about $40,000 in November, when voters go to the polls to elect a mayor through a ranked-choice voting process. The city had estimated the cost grow by about $20,000, because the current ballot counting machines are not equipped for ranking votes.

Jones said she is still creating her plan, and will have a better picture for the public soon. She said her research includes talking with other communities about their transitions to ranked-choice elections.

The Westbrook resident has worked as an elections administrator in the clerk’s office for more than two years, and earned her clerk certification while working under Cohen.

“Elections, I feel, are something you have to have a strong background in for this job,” Jones said. “Portland values elections so highly.”

Jones previously was deputy city clerk in Westbrook. Because that city elects its clerk every two years, her job included training and supporting the elected clerk.

Jones was bumped from that position by another union employee in Westbrook, she said. Before working in Westbrook, she was an assistant for a funeral director.

The Portland office runs well, and Jones said she does not plan on making significant changes. She said the staff “is just amazing.”

“The system in place works well,” she said.

Jones was selected from a pool of more than 70 applicants and is one of three direct hires of the council, along with the city manager and corporation counsel. The counsel unanimously approved her hiring.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katebucklin.

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