Ex-lawyer finds true calling working in town government | PostIndependent.com

Ex-lawyer finds true calling working in town government

In high school, Lisa Cain dreamed of being a lawyer.

While she earned the law degree and practiced law in Denver for a few years, her path brought her to New Castle, where she served as town administrator, and now, town clerk, since 1996.

She likes her career just fine.

Cain was born in Oklahoma but grew up in Ohio. Her father was a civilian computer systems analyst for the Department of Defense, “back in the ’50s when computers filled up a room,” at Wright Patterson Air Force Base outside Dayton.

A week after she graduated high school the family moved back to Oklahoma, this time to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City. But Cain was off to Michigan State for college.

That lasted only one year, however.

“I didn’t have any family there. I wanted to be away from home, but not that far away,” she said.

She transferred to the University of Oklahoma in Norman, not far from the family. She graduated in 1981 with a bachelor of arts in “Letters,” another term for a liberal arts degree.

“I majored in history, literature and philosophy,” she said.

It was a good foundation for law school, she added.

Law school was the University of Colorado, which she chose after taking a skiing trip to Colorado while in college.

There, besides gaining a law degree, she also met “the love of my life,” Tim Cain.

Her roommate pulled a fast one on both of them, Cain explained. She invited Lisa and Tim to a party, but neither knew they were intended to meet there. The plan was a huge success, however.

“It was love at first sight,” Cain said.

They found they liked the same outdoor activities, especially fishing. Lisa asked Tim to teach her to fly fish, and when he readily agreed, “that got me,” she said.

They married in 1985 and spent the next nine years in Denver.

After graduating from law school in 1985, Cain worked for one of the large law firms in Denver. She found that her dream job was not what she wanted.

“I decided I didn’t want to work for a really big firm. They pressure you to put in a lot of billable hours,” she said.

She struck out on her own, but that didn’t work for her.

“I couldn’t make it. I found I was spending more time growing the business than practicing law,” she said.

Tim then suggested she find a job in government. She became an employment relations specialist at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver.

In 1994 the couple decided Denver was getting “too crowded, too polluted,” and they decided to move to Glenwood Springs.

Tim, who’d been teaching at North High School in Denver, came up to Glenwood that January and saw an advertisement for a counselor opening at Colorado West Mental Health. He scored an interview and a job.

With her government experience, Lisa Cain looked for similar work in the Glenwood Springs area. She was hired in 1994 as an administrative assistant for Garfield County administrator Chuck Deschenes.

The move from federal to county government, she said, “was a good thing. It was a lot closer to the constituents.

“Chuck was the first supervisor I worked for who knew how to use a computer,” Cain noted.

In fact, Deschenes did most of his own writing, freeing Cain up to work on personnel issues. During her two-year tenure at Garfield County, she helped write standardized job descriptions for county workers.

In 1996, Cain heard the town of New Castle was looking for a town clerk and administrator combined in one job.

When she took the job, she knew she’d come to the right place.

“Town government is the place to be if you’re going to be in government,” Cain said. “You’re very close to the people you serve.”

Further, it fulfilled the hope she had in becoming a lawyer.

“I wanted to get into law to help solve problems, to make the world a better place. You can do that in town government,” she said. “What’s even better is to work in a small town where you know the people.”

Last year the Town Council decided to split the job into two positions, appointing Cain as the town clerk and hiring former Mayor Steve Rippy as town administrator.

At first, Cain said, it was a blow to her ego.

“I thought I could do it, but I couldn’t,” she said. “Nobody can do both in a town this size.”

Now she’s been able to focus on the clerk’s duties, such as reorganizing the town’s records. She also issues licenses and permits and runs town elections.

Managing the records has meant installing a new accounting system, disposing of obsolete records and deciding which ones to keep.

Over the years Cain has also managed to earn her certification as a municipal clerk through the International Institute of Municipal Clerks.

Eventually she’d like to put all the towns records on electronic storage media such as CDs or microfilm. And she’d like to improve communication between the town staff and the public.

Cain said she feels lucky to live and work in the same town, and to be able to raise her two children, Paul and Carly, there. In fact, she’d like to stay with the job until she retires.

“I want to keep getting better at the job so they will keep me,” she said.

“I feel I’ve found the place where I’m supposed to be.”

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