The Municipal Clerk truly is a community’s jack-of-all-trades, often overseeing multiple departments and performing numerous tasks daily to keep local governments and public services running smoothly and efficiently.
As we approach our annual salute to clerks through the Municipal Clerks Honor Roll, we want to spotlight clerks in our client communities who go above and beyond for their municipalities and constituents. Conversations With Clerks is a new DeCoder series in which we talk with Municipal Clerks from across the country to learn more about their unique experiences and what it takes to be effective and successful in their roles.
This issue’s featured clerk:
Assistant City Administrator and City Clerk
City of Camdenton, MO
Can you tell us a bit about your city?
The City of Camdenton is in Central Missouri on Lake of the Ozarks. We are in Camden County, and we have about 4,000 residents.
Have you lived in Camdenton all your life?
I’m actually a transplant from Upstate NY. I was born in Cortland, NY and I still have family in the Finger Lakes area. We moved here when I was five so yes, I have lived most of my life here.
Can you give us a sense of your journey – how you got to your current position.
It was not a career that was even on my radar. I went to college for accounting. I met my husband and dropped out after I got my two-year degree. He was in the military so that kind of led us around the United States and world. I worked for the military as a civilian and then we came back. I did a few odd jobs here just to have income and then I got a job at the City of Osage Beach in the Sewer Department. While I loved that job, it was 33 miles one way and I kept looking for something closer. The City of Camdenton advertised for a full-time Finance Officer, so I applied. That was in 1997 and I’ve been with the city ever since.
How did you make the leap from finance to the role of Municipal Clerk?
So, in Camdenton we have 43 employees full-time, so it’s pretty small. Our City Administrator resigned and moved to a new position and the mayor at the time convinced the then-City Clerk that she would make a great City Administrator. So after much cajoling she agreed to the position but only if she got to promote all her people that had worked for her for all these years. So, we all got promoted at the same time in July of 2009. And that’s when I became a City Clerk.
And how did you also end up being Assistant City Administrator?
Shortly after I became clerk, we changed City Administrators. Things did not go well and the new Mayor and I found ourselves in a position where he and I were pretty much making the day-to-day decisions for the city. The Mayor and the board came to the conclusion that since I was doing the job, I should have the title and a little bit more pay to go with it. That’s when they added Assistant City Administrator to my title.
What are your duties in your current position?
I take the meeting minutes and I do all the code changes and put together the packets for the meetings. I sit in on most city meetings and if the City Administrator is out that usually makes me the contact person for the other department directors in case they might need something. The new City Administrator, the Mayor and I just have this very good working relationship. We don’t really make decisions unless the three of us have consulted about it.
Do you work directly with the public as well?
I am records management person and so all records requests go through me. I usually see all of them, but I do have a clerk who helps a lot because we do get a fair number of records requests each year. We also have a cemetery so many of the cemetery questions come to me. I oversee the administrative side of Water and Sewer, the finance person, a deputy city clerk, and an administrative assistant in accounts payable. I also oversee the Code and Fire officials for all business license inspections and life safety inspections for all the buildings in town. When we had a court, that department fell under me as well.
What do you like most about your job?
It’s not the same everyday but it is if that makes sense. I like solving problems and over the years I’ve learned how to communicate better. I know what to say to calm down a resident if they’re upset about something. And generally, we have good conversations after I let them be heard out.
What is your relationship with people in your city?
It’s good, but there are pluses and minuses. If you show up at a Walmart on Saturday or any grocery store, even at church – people come up to me and say “hey, I forgot to pay my water bill” and things like that. It can be funny but it’s really okay though. Having a good rapport with the public and not putting them off when they have questions is important – helping is just who I am, it’s my job and I love it.
How has the job of Municipal Clerk changed over the years?
The position has always been important in the community – people just really weren’t aware of the job and everything it entails. Some cities in Missouri are so small that the City Clerk is everything and I really feel for those clerks. And some of those small cities have municipal codes that are not codified, and that just breaks my heart. The cities are so small, and they just really can’t afford to get all that done. They’re scrambling through papers all the time.
What are some of the characteristics you believe are needed to be successful in this job?
A thick skin for sure – a good listening ear and good communication with the public. Also, education – being able to teach others is important in this position. Because none of us are going to live forever, there’s going to be attrition in this business, so you need to be continually teaching others about the job. We have a clerks’ conference each year at our institute, and I meet with those clerks and with the president of our state association. I make a point to just meet with those clerks and talk to them. I try to make good contacts with them through our MemberClicks app.
Do you feel you’ve been a mentor to some of the clerks in your surrounding areas? Do you follow their progress?
Yes, and it’s interesting to see how fast cities are advertising for another clerk. I think educating other clerks is important. And the ones who don’t want to participate in that, who don’t want to learn and grow are the ones who have the most trouble.
What advice would you give to those considering being a clerk and working for local government?
Education. Make sure that you continue to do your self-improvement. Do research. Do some growing of your own on your own. And it’s a small thing but be willing to brush up on grammar and English – they aren’t the most exciting things but presenting yourself professionally is important so it’s important to have those skills.
How do you keep up on your education?
This year I took four college classes on leadership, so yeah that was fun. I shouldn’t have done all four at the same time, but I did! You know, you don’t have to have a college degree –I have my associates but that’s it. But there are a lot of clerks who have no degrees but for me personally, I want to learn, I want to grow to be the best person, the best choice for this position for years to come.