Platte County will have a new election commissioner for the first time in 23 years starting July 1.
Diane Olmer, who has been in the position since April 1, 1996, and with the county for 32 years, recently announced her plans to retire at the end of this month. She’s currently training her successor, Connie Sebourn.
“Being the Platte County election commissioner has been a privilege and an adventure. This job has really made me appreciate the country I live in and the great privilege of being a voting citizen,” Olmer told The Columbus Telegram. “I wish to thank Platte County for this job, the citizens for their cooperation, the many loyal poll workers and office workers through the years that helped make Platte County elections efficient and smooth.”
Olmer first started with Platte County in its county clerk’s office, where she handled payroll and accounts payable, among other things, for nine years. But when the previous election commissioner resigned, Olmer said she became interested in the opportunity.
“It looked like something interesting, something new and I could be the boss instead of being under someone else. Elections are somewhat intriguing,” she said. “I didn’t know how much work it would be until I got into the job. I was like anybody else who started a new job, but it seemed interesting, something new.”
Olmer has been in charge of the local office through countless local and six presidential elections. She said of them all the 2016 presidential election, in which Republican Donald J. Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton squared off, was by far the most memorable.
Olmer said the office was really busy in the days leading up to the election that year, as many people were coming in to ask questions and cast early votes. So much so, election officials couldn’t even answer the phones during that time and left them ringing. She did learn one thing over the years serving in the role and witnessing four distinctively different U.S. presidents, Bill Clinton (D); George W. Bush (R); Barack Obama (D); and Trump (R), get into the Oval Office.
“We usually live through it and move on,” she said of when a new president is elected. “Hopefully, the U.S. continues like that.”
Olmer said she likes presidential elections, but stressed the importance of local ones.
“Presidential elections are the ones people want to show up and vote at,” she said. “But, in my opinion, they should vote more regularly because those people they vote in for city council and school board actually affect them more directly. And it’s disappointing when nobody shows up. Your vote always makes a difference.”
Olmer said she’s looking forward to retirement. She plans to spend more time with her 12 grandchildren and other family members, as well as enjoy “the good life” in Nebraska.
Platte County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jerry Engdahl praised Olmer for her dedication and commitment to the role she has maintained for 20-plus years.
“We really are going to miss her,” he said. “She did an excellent job.”
Serving as election commissioner for so long has really made Olmer appreciate the election process even more, as she noted she never has nor ever will take the right to vote for granted.
“It really has emphasized the importance of elections and how lucky we are to live in the U.S. and have elections that go on,” she said. “And we try very hard to make them fair and open, and even more nowadays. Everything is under more scrutiny than when I first started, which is good. Look at other countries where people can show up to vote and they can fear for their life because they show up to vote. We live in a pretty great country.”
Olmer is spending the coming weeks mentoring Sebourn as she prepares to take over the commissioner position. Sebourn, who was brought in to fill Olmer’s term through January 2023, previously worked as a para for Columbus Public Schools and brings with her significant experience as a poll worker in previous Platte County elections.
“I am excited,” Sebourn said. “I think it will be a very interesting job. I have some big shoes to fill, but I think I’ll do good with (Olmer’s) help and everybody else’s help.”
Olmer was part of the team that chose her successor and said Sebourn is a great fit. She said she hopes the many people who served as poll workers in the past will continue to do so moving forward under Sebourn.
“I think she’ll do well. She’s willing to learn, wants to learn new things, she’s taking notes. There is always a learning curve,” Olmer said. “Please treat our new election commissioner with the same respect that you have given to me. It is time for me to spend more time with family and friends and make my own choices on what I do daily.”
Engdahl congratulated Sebourn on taking over the election commissioner position.
“We’re happy to have her and are looking forward to working with her,” he said.
Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.