#clerklife: From Cradle to Grave

Posted on May 4, 2018

Welcome to the blog series, “The Local Government Nerve Center” — all about the amazing and important work of clerks and recorders. Want to be a contributor? Learn more here.

#clerklifeBy Lindsay Lara, City Clerk
City of San Rafael, California
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Being a City Clerk has been the most rewarding opportunity I have experienced in my professional career—so far. The day-to-day life keeps me on my toes and I am constantly learning new things to keep my mind challenged. There are times when I can feel my limbs being torn in every direction of our agency, from deep dives into the Brown Act, researching the framework for establishing assessment districts, and assembling agenda packets – all at the same time!

But all of these tasks are part of the profession that I have grown to love. That being said, I didn’t envision being a City Clerk since childhood. To be honest, I had no idea what a City Clerk was until I was in my early twenties.

I started my professional career in the public sector at the ripe age of seventeen.

I started working for the Marin County Superior Court in the Records Division, where I learned all about public records requests: proper filing procedures, destruction of records based on retention schedules, legal requirements, and more. It is there where I truly fell in love with records management. Although I worked in many divisions throughout my seven years at the courthouse, I somehow always ended up back in Records.
One day I stumbled across an administrative assistant position for the City of San Rafael in the City Clerk’s Office. The position seemed to line up perfectly with my experience with records management so I went for it and was offered the full-time position! The next four years would be jam-packed with an increasing amount of responsibility. Day one, I was thrown directly into the art of minute-taking and I couldn’t have loved it more. My boss explained the intricacies required for minute-taking and showed me the ropes. In the weeks and months following, I would come to learn all about the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), the Ralph M. Brown Act, the Maddy Act, and a slew of other state and federal regulations that impact our processes. Naturally, I was drawn to the challenge of improving our records management program and began digitizing our physical documents to allow for residents and staff to easily find the history of our legislative action.

I’ve loved technology since forever (duh), so I was constantly making appointments with vendors to find out how we could be more efficient.

I have been honored to implement multiple technologies into our department which has significantly improved our service delivery, such as online applications for boards and commissions, electronic document management software, agenda management software and even building a new website for our City!
Much can be said about the exciting opportunities I have been given since starting my employment with San Rafael. I have been in the City Clerk’s Office, I jumped from Administrative Assistant II, to Senior Administrative Assistant, to Deputy City Clerk, to Interim City Clerk, and finally to City Clerk. The increasing responsibility that had been added to my workload, plus my involvement in all things San Rafael, prepared me for the day the City Clerk informed me that she would would be retiring, and quickly. I was faced with the decision to apply for the City Clerk position and hoped that I would be able to adequately express how my background and experience prepared me for the role. After much thought, I decided to throw my name in the hat and go for it. I knew I was qualified in my technical skills, and now it was important for me to display my ability to lead my department as the director.

I knew the culture of our agency, and I knew the importance of taking our core values and applying them to my daily professional life.

I knew this would allow me to be an effective leader in our organization. Ultimately, I was appointed City Clerk of the City of San Rafael and I couldn’t be happier! The public sector and serving my community is the only life I have ever known, and I plan to stay for as long as I can: from cradle to grave. I have climbed from the ground up in just under four years and I intend on being the very best City Clerk that I can be. I love everything #clerklife and want to continue learning and growing in the field of “clerkdom”. Luckily, there are many opportunities for continued education and professional development through the City Clerks Association of California and the International Institute of Municipal Clerks.

If you are considering becoming a City Clerk, you should – because we’re pretty cool.

We work hard and we value the importance of creating and maintaining strong relationships with every department of the organization. We must pay attention to detail while simultaneously working toward the big picture of modernizing service delivery, increasing our digital presence, and engaging the community toward civic participation. If you aren’t sure how to start, ask questions, learn about the what we do and why, and apply for a position in the City Clerk’s office to get your feet wet. Take every opportunity you can to learn more about your organization, such as joining teams and interviewing City staff about their positions and departments. Make yourself valuable! I will always look back at my 17-year old self, a baby in the Records Division, soaking up as much information as I could. I never want to lose that curiosity and eagerness to learn.

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