Wendy Noren, who developed a national reputation as an elections expert during her 35 years as Boone County clerk, has lost her battle with cancer. Noren, 63, died Sunday.
Noren was the county clerk from 1982 until she resigned in June, citing her declining health. She worked briefly as a consultant for her successor, Taylor Burks.
Noren began working in the clerk's office in 1978 when her predecessor, Chris Kelly, hired her. She won re-election eight times and was challenged only once, in 1998.
"Few people get the chance to spend their entire career doing meaningful work that allows them to accomplish so much," Noren said in a statement she issued when she stepped down from her job. "With the generous support of the people of this county I have been lucky to have that opportunity."Noren was described by those around her as a leader and innovator. She served as an international elections observer in Albania in 1997 and in Bosnia in 2001.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said in a Congressional tribute to Noren during her last week on the job that Noren was "a leading election expert at local, state, federal and international levels."
Kelly told the Missourian when Noren retired that "people would call her from all over the country" for advice on election-related matters.
Former Boone County Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller was president of the National Association of Counties in 2004 when she appointed Noren to the association's U.S. Election Assistance Commission Advisory Board. Noren was reappointed every two years thereafter.
She also served as legislative chair for Missouri County Clerks and Election Authorities, and was a leader in election law reform.
"After the 2000 election exposed many weaknesses in the election process, I was privileged to be a part of the first national effort to reform election administration," Noren said when she retired.
Art Auer, who worked with Noren for 33 years as director of elections, told the Missourian in June that the office was "always busy, always changing, always innovating, always moving forward."
Noren in 2007 took it upon herself to develop software that enabled Boone County to join a statewide voter registration database required by the federal government. Although the state had offered software for $150,000, Noren saved the taxpayers nearly $125,000 by creating her own. The incident sparked a public spat with then-Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.
And in 2008, Noren hosted a pair of international election experts — one from Canada and one from South Africa — who came to learn about her techniques for conducting elections. That visit was arranged by Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based organization for human rights.
"I have constantly tried to keep Boone County as an early adopter of technology that improved ability of voters to register to vote, to be informed about elections and to cast their ballot in a secure way," Noren said. "I am proud of these and the many other achievements my office accomplished over the years. This could never have been done without an outstanding staff and thousands of dedicated poll workers who have served with me."