San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder
The term: Four years
The candidates: Ann Danko, Caltrans business management chief; Tommy Gong, Assistant clerk-recorder; Amanda King: Deputy clerk-recorder
The Tribune endorses: Tommy Gong
Voters of San Luis Obispo County are fortunate to have three strong candidates vying to succeed Julie Rodewald as county clerk-recorder. All three are smart, hard-working and competent, but in the final analysis, we found that Tommy Gong stands out as the candidate with the most relevant on-the-job experience and is most ready to step in and replace Rodewald.
The assistant clerk-recorder — the office's second-in-command — for the past nine years, Gong, 48, is well versed not only in the nuts-and-bolts aspect of running elections, he also has management and budgeting know-how; is familiar with the rules and regulations that affect this important office; and he's been involved in introducing technological upgrades, including use of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology for precinct maps.
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We've also been impressed by his professionalism in dealing with the public — and the media — in handling a range of inquiries, particularly regarding elections. Gong also has weathered several challenges — including the county's "seven years of pain plan" put in place during the recession — as well as the unexpected, such as a rare (for SLO County) election recount request made in 2012 when the Grover Beach charter city measure lost by four votes. (The final tally did not change in the recount.)
We also like what he has to say about the future direction of the office. In answering questions posed by The Tribune, Gong said he wants to use technology to get election results more quickly, "without sacrificing accuracy or election integrity." He's in an excellent position to do so: He's been working with vendors involved in developing next-generation systems for vote counting and ballot scanning.
Regarding the other candidates: We were highly impressed with deputy county clerk-recorder Amanda King, 31, who has been with the office for eight years. In that amount of time, she's accomplished much. Among other duties, she's trained precinct workers; served as senior document examiner; performed ADA accessibility surveys; served as clerk for the assessment appeals board; and she's been coordinating social media. She puts a high priority on improving public service and has excellent ideas for increasing voter registration. King is an asset to the county and we encourage her to continue to seek leadership positions.
Ann Danko, 57, also has an impressive resume that includes management, financial oversight and working with many sectors of the public, including small businesses. She currently is chief of business management and small business liaison for CalTrans District 5, which includes five counties, including San Luis Obispo. Danko also has served as a temporary elections precinct worker for many years, assisting with 14 primary and general elections. She's well versed in how elections operate at the precinct level, and she, too, impressed us with her strong commitment to doing outreach to expand voter registration and improve turnout.
On balance, though, we believe that Gong's knowledge and experience make him the best fit for this position. The Tribune strongly endorses Tommy Gong for county clerk-recorder.