Nine minutes after Missoula's citywide elections came to a close last week, our phone rang. To our delight it was Missoula County Clerk and Recorder Vickie Zeier, who, with characteristic efficiency, ticked off the first election results ward by ward. We were struck by the fact that Zeier made time to call us in the middle of keeping the county's whiz-bang ballot-counting machines up to snuff and tallying city council results.
Our admiration grew into something stronger when we realized we weren't the only ones Zeier called—she personally contacted multiple media outlets, election junkies and at least one council candidate with updates almost hourly until after 10 p.m., when all the votes were counted.
We'll just come out and admit it: We heart Vickie Zeier.
Forgive us for romanticizing, but we're still smitten with Zeier in the afterglow of election night. We see the soft-spoken administrator as a champion of democracy. Perhaps more than anyone else, she knows the value of one person, one vote.
"I do understand how important [votes] are," she says. "One vote makes a difference and, you know, this election shows us that."
We're lucky in Missoula to have responsive officials. But Zeier stands out as especially conscientious. Even after working for 27 years in county government and overseeing dozens of elections, she's anything but a calloused bureaucrat content to rest on her laurels while ticking off the days till retirement. This public servant is so invested that she's been known to tear up when criticized in public. That was the case in 2009, when Zeier and the Missoula County Board of Commissioners, aiming to reconcile an increase in absentee voting with a tight budget, moved to shutter polling places. For Zeier, it wasn't easy to stomach claims that she was disenfranchising voters.
"It was hard to hear that people thought that of myself and my staff," she says. "I do become pretty emotional with elections."
With Missoula's citywide election season coming to a close, Zeier is already prepping for next time, ensuring, for instance, that election judges will be ready to roll and AutoMark wheels are greased. "The 2012 elections are going to be crazy," she says.
We can barely wait until our phone rings again after polls close Nov. 6, 2012.