From the Midwest to the mountains |

From the Midwest to the mountains

FRISCO – For someone who didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life, Kari Novotny has come a long way from her roots in the Midwest.

The Frisco woman was born in Kansas City, Mo., and moved with her mother and step-father to Payola, Kan. when she was in high school. After graduating, Novotny enrolled in Kansas State University as a sociology major.

She left college a year later and moved to Summit County, where her father lived – and to get a better-paying job. Novotny was 19 when she landed a part-time job as a clerk at the Summit County Courthouse on Lincoln Street. Through family friends, she met and married Steve Novotny.

“And a year later, along came the girls,” Novotny said of the couple’s twins, Cami and Celsea. “And ultrasound at six weeks showed there were two little heartbeats, just beating away. Steve went pale. I think they wrote that in my chart.”

Novotny, who always thought she might grow up to be a mother, was used to having children underfoot, as both her parents remarried and had additional children.

“They were good kids; I was blessed with wonderful babies,” she said of her girls, now 16. “I think God thought, “Let’s give this girl a break.'”

The twins have acted more as individuals than twins since kindergarten, Novotny said. Cami is a snowboarder and hockey player who wants to pursue nursing at Colorado State University, while Celsea – who cut her hair short and has kept it that way since her kindergarten teacher told Novotny she couldn’t tell them apart – wants to delve into theater.

Novotny spent a year at home with the girls, then resumed work at the courthouse, in the district attorney’s office. She was the first victim witness coordinator, serving subpoenas and holding victims’ hands.

“It was a brand new position,” Novotny said. “I kind of made it up as I went along.”

Later she worked as a clerk at the Frisco Police Department, then returned to the courts to clerk. Now, almost 20 years later, she works as a division clerk under District Court Judge Terry Ruckriegle – whom Novotny remembers from his days as a district attorney.

“I know everybody,” Novotny said. “It’s been real fun to watch people succeed and move up.”

Among them is Sheriff Joe Morales, who was a road deputy when Novotny began work at the courts, and District Attorney Mark Hurlbert, whom Novotny remembers watching act on the high school stage.

The first case she worked on in district court was the Andrew Staton murder trial, in which a jury found Staton guilty of killing another man by hitting him over the head with a rock. Novotny’s also seen the trials of James Douglas Roe, convicted in the death of a Keystone man when he turned his improperly loaded logging truck onto a side road from Highway 9, sending a log through the windshield of the passing car.

And she witnessed the trial of Chuck Garrison, whom an Eagle County jury found guilty of killing his wife, Sharon.

“Those cases are much more interesting,” she said. “I hate the civil stuff. Some seem so ridiculous. And divorces can go on and on. Those are the worst. They are really never over.”

She and Steve divorced after 11 years of marriage.

Like many Summit County residents, Novotny struggles to stay ahead. She works four jobs: as a division clerk at the courts, with the Advocates for Victims of Assault, cleaning condos and occasionally proofreading court minutes.

Novotny returned to college, at Colorado Mountain College and earned her associates degree in liberal arts – which she hopes to apply to a four-year university once her children are out of college. Again, she might choose to major in sociology – although she’s not sure what she’d do with the degree, she said with a laugh.

“I don’t see myself leaving, though,” she said. “But I could see myself going somewhere eventually – somewhere warm.”

She did take a friend up on an offer to travel to Rome over New Year’s – Novotny’s first trip abroad.

“It was so overwhelming; the history, the architecture, the food, the wine, the people,” she said of her week in Europe. “And the Vatican brought tears to my eyes. It’s so awesome to be standing there where someone was painting 1,000 years ago.”

With many jobs and a set of twins to raise, Novotny doesn’t make time to do much more than cook or help the girls in their activities.

“But I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said. “I’m really blessed here.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or

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