5 Things Your City Recorder Office Wants You to Know

Posted on August 8, 2019


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Today’s Buzz is by Samantha Roberts– connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter!

What I’m Watching: NBC’s Game of Games

What I’m Reading….Still: Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott

What I’m listening to: Sleeping At Last’s “4” podcast episode about Enneagram Type 4 folks

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As a fresh MPA graduate, I did not envision working as a Deputy City Recorder. I imagined the sexy work of policy analysis and late nights compiling statistics and economic analysis reports. I imagined speaking before Council and bone-chillingly awesome revelations brought forth by sound quantitative analysis. I envisioned an Elle Woods worthy moment in which I would slam down a 200-page report on Council’s table and point my finger in the air with conviction, scientifically proving a social injustice needing correction.

Regardless, it’s been a year since my first day on the job, and I am here today to tell you – city recorder is the hidden gem of a profession. It may not be for everyone, but if you’re detail oriented, enjoy being close to policy in action, and enjoy a fast paced, ever-changing environment- it’s great work.

In honor of my one-year anniversary of stumbling on to this treasure trove of skills, here are five things people should know about city recorders. It’s a bit of a hodge-podge – but I’m feelin’ froggy, so here we go:

Your Recorder is the Town Historian.

Like a GOT Maester O.G., the City Recorder is the town’s record keeper. With giant ledgers filled with minutes, ordinances, and resolutions, the city recorder is the guardian of the town’s past, present, and future. I mean – that’s heavy y’all. Sure, librarians know stuff. So do actual historians. But no one has a handle on the town’s history quite like the City Recorder.

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Your City Recorder is a Giant, Little-Used Resource

With the town’s history at their fingertips, city recorders have what you need to function as a city employee.  We have tips on best practices for records management – including emergency management as we work closely with our emergency management team.  We have history on council decisions and process.  Some of us wear 100 different hats, including election officer, payroll, accounts payable and receivable, budgeting, council support, mayoral support, city manager support, records request managers, records manager, etc. So chances are likely we are like Mom with an answer ready for every which kind of question to Sunday.  Just ask – it’s what we’re for.

Your City Recorder is a point of access to elected officials and the City Manager

Most City Recording staff work directly with city council, the mayor, and the city manager throughout the course of their work and depending on their town size.  If you’re looking for a field that gets you directly in the line of policy work, without being an actual Policy Maker, look no further.  I get to be the fly on the wall during some pretty interesting moments, and honestly I’m not mad about it.

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For the Love of All that is Good, Please Manage Your Records

As Deputy City Recorder, I provide training on record disposition practices and retention methods. I process records requests and manage our city archives. I get a birds-eye view of how city employees manage their records, and like most of us, it’s not pretty.  There’s a lot of hoarding. There’s a lot of duplication because we don’t fully trust electronic storage methods. There’s a lot of “miscellaneous” folders in shared drives with outdated acronyms and records five years past retention. The thing is, WE CAN HELP! We have what you need to figure out what you can satisfyingly shred one crusty folder at a time. We are in touch with the State Archives office about best practices for managing records. Please. I’m begging. Pleading. Imploring. Go through that stack of papers that’s been there since you inherited them with your desk six years ago.

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City Recorder is a Fulfilling Job

Okay, it’s not sexy. Like even a little bit. More days than not, I have to will myself to enter one more contract without falling asleep. And yet! This role is an honor to fill. We are a direct point of contact to democracy. As gatekeepers of our government’s records we are the first point of contact for our community. We are on the front lines of ethics as elections officers, records request managers, and elected officials support staff.  Not only is the work we do vital to the functions of a city government, they are also fascinating as we coordinate the policy making process.

I may never get to maester status, but I am seriously impressed by this profession.  Who knows what the next 20 years will bring, but today, looking back, I’m feeling grateful our City Recorder took a chance on a new grad to do serious work that matters.

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