Hillary Hall was getting people's attention around Boulder as far back as 1982, when the future county clerk and recorder was an industrious high school scholar.

"Hillary was an officer in student government in Fairview High School when my son Stratton was, and so they worked together in our basement with other students from Fairview High School, cooking up all kinds of leadership activities for students at Fairview," said Josie Heath, former Boulder County commissioner.

"I saw her then as I see her now: as a smart, visionary, compassionate person," said Heath, now president of The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County.

Now Hall has risen to greater prominence, far beyond her hometown, through her ongoing battle with Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, who sued her office Thursday to stop Hall from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. One hundred and five had been issued in Boulder County through Thursday.

Heath is not surprised at anything she has seen from Hall through a continuing controversy that has drawn national attention.

"She has a strong sense of justice, but she is a reserved, quiet person," said Heath, adding, that, "Still water runs deep. Anyone who underestimates Hillary would do so at their own risk."

Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall

Education: Fairview High School, University of Northern Colorado and Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts

Elective office: Won her first term as Boulder County clerk and recorder in 2006, re-elected in 2010, is the Democratic Party candidate for a third term on November's ballot. Previously was chair of Boulder County Democratic Party

Personal: 48 years old, married with two adult daughters, resides in Boulder Heights

In training: Preparing to hike 21 miles rim-to-rim in the Grand Canyon in one day this September

Quote: "We are so blessed to live where we are."

Hall told The New York Times last week that, "The introvert in me is screaming." And, in an interview with the Daily Camera on Thursday, she underscored that her actions since June 25 were not a bid for fame or notoriety.

"Just because it looks like someone is comfortable doing what they're doing does not necessarily make that so," said Hall, 48. "Sometimes you have to do things you're not super-comfortable with because you believe in something.

"I am more introverted, by nature. I know people may not believe that, but I am."

'That's not really how the law works'

Hall, first elected Boulder's clerk and recorder in 2006, vaulted into the headlines when, within hours of a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision striking down Utah's gay marriage ban as unconstitutional, she began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Boulder County.

She has done so in defiance of Suthers, who cautioned that because the 10th Circuit ruling was accompanied by a stay pending a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the issue, licenses issued in Boulder could be invalidated.

In addressing a press gathering last Tuesday, Hall showed no sign of discomfort having taken a stance that no other county clerk in the state has matched.

Hillary Hall, Boulder County clerk and recorder, at her desk in her office in Boulder on Thursday. Hall is being sued by Colorado Attorney General John
Hillary Hall, Boulder County clerk and recorder, at her desk in her office in Boulder on Thursday. Hall is being sued by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers in an attempt to stop her from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (Paul Aiken / Daily Camera)

"I think that just because he says something is not valid, that's not really how the law works," Hall said, referring to Suthers. "It takes a court to say something is not valid."

While stating at one point that, "History will be on our side," Hall's tone was otherwise almost matter-of-fact for a topic around which political passions often run high.

Hall, no relation to Boulder County Coroner Emma Hall, holds a degree in culinary arts from the Western Culinary Institute, now known as Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Portland, Oregon.

She is married to Tim Enwall, son of former Boulder District Judge Michael Enwall, and the couple has two daughters, aged 20 and 22.

Hall grew up in Boulder, and in a Daily Camera 2010 questionnaire, she stated that her heroes "are the local firefighters and emergency workers who worked tirelessly and courageously fighting the Fourmile Canyon fire."

And, invited on the 2010 questionnaire to reveal something "unusual" about herself that few people know, Hall didn't stray too far off-message, confessing only to being "an election nerd" who, when traveling, will visit elections officers for a first-hand look at how others do the job.

'Exercising the prerogatives of her office'

Hall is running for re-election to a third term in November. She faces no Republican challenger, but is opposed by Libertarian candidate Ralph Shnelvar.

Shnelvar has said that he agrees licenses should be issued to same-sex couples, but that he also would be granting those couples civil union licenses, due to current uncertainty about the enduring validity of marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples.

He has greater differences with Hall on the issue of voting transparency.

"She has improved procedures this year," Shnelvar said. "Nonetheless, (poll) watchers are still pretty much potted plants."

Shnelvar added, "One can appear to be fair and transparent, and yet tilt the playing field toward the preferred party. I believe she is exercising the prerogatives of her office, to give her political party a legal advantage when it comes to voting."

Hall said it was "unfortunate" that that's how Shnelvar views her office.

"In regard to elections, we collaborate with other county clerks and the Secretary of State's Office to implement election policies in as neutral a way as we can," Hall said.

"Elections processes need continual refinement to keep up with changing times and modern technology. I work very hard on legislation to ensure these changes move forward and that our office in turn implements the new laws correctly and in a uniform manner. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with modernizing election laws to fit with our times."

Seen as 'steady, level-headed person'

Another longtime acquaintance who has been watching Hall's current battle with keen interest is retired Boulder attorney Jean Dubofsky.

She is the first female member of the Colorado Supreme Court, who is also known for successfully arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court for the overturning of Amendment 2 to the Colorado Constitution, which barred protective status based on sexual orientation.

"I was surprised when I first heard she had done it," Dubofsky said of Hall's decision to issue licenses to same-sex couple. "But then I thought, 'Good for her.'"

Dubofsky recalls when Hall used to put her culinary talents to use in providing elaborate dinners as prizes for Democratic fundraisers. Hall did the same for The Community Foundation's Open Door Fund, which raises money and distributes grants for programs that are supportive of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

"She is a very steady, level-headed person," Dubofsky said. "I think she doesn't get excited" when challenged.

Dubofsky alluded to Hall's battles with critics such as Shnelvar, who sued Hall's office in 2012 to allow designated election watchers to observe all of her staff's handling of mail-in ballots and those of active-duty members of the military, as well as citizens living overseas.

That suit reached an out-of-court settlement just days before the 2012 election.

"I think she handled it very well, without getting excited about it, and bent over backwards to accommodate people — but wouldn't do everything they wanted, by any means," Dubofsky said.

A meeting of ideals and perception of duty

As for Hall's emergence as prominent advocate on a central equity issue of the moment, Hall noted that her ideals and philosophy were forming as early as her sophomore year at Fairview.

She recalled an inspiring youth minister who wrote plays for a touring group from the school, one of which addressed the question of whom, if Jesus were on Earth today, would be his disciples.

For that production, Hall said, she played a prostitute, while another student portrayed a person with disabilities, and another was cast as a gay person. Not long after, that youth minister came out as gay himself.

The experience, Hall said, underscored for her the message that "people are people," regardless of what labels or limitations others might try to place on them.

Hall's most recent actions in office, she said, represent a convergence of her personal beliefs with what she considers to be her legal duty.

"I think this is where, as an elected official, I feel privileged to be where I can match both of those up," she said. "I have an obligation. It is my job. I have a responsibility, and it goes with what I believe to be true as well."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Charlie Brennan at 303-473-1327, brennanc@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/chasbrennan.