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City clerk joins state mentorship program

City clerk joins state mentorship program

Work will take up minimal office hours, clerk tells council

Charles City Clerk Trudy O’Donnell remembers what it was like to start her first clerk job in Riceville, on Jan. 4 –– right at the beginning of budget season, when O’Donnell had to project the next 18 months of spending.

“It’s so overwhelming. It’s a tough job, a lot of people don’t realize just how tough it is,” O’Donnell said Monday night, after the city council formally approved O’Donnell’s involvement in a clerk mentorship program.

Sponsored by the Iowa League of Cities, the volunteer position puts O’Donnell on a resource list for beginning city clerks across the state in an effort to give more support in a demanding job –– especially where there isn’t a lot of people to turn to for help.

“Here, I’m lucky enough that I have a staff that does the billing, those types of things. Those one-horse towns that only have one person in the office, it can be really tough,” O’Donnell said. “I’m hoping to alleviate that a little bit and help somebody out, if I can.”

O’Donnell, who has been a clerk for nearly 16 years, said most of the needed help comes from communities where clerks retire and move away, or quit and are inaccessible to new clerks. Iowa clerks have also appeared in recent headlines, accused or convicted of embezzlement, which O’Donnell said may add to the perception of high clerk turnovers.

“It’s a lot tougher job than what some people realize when they take the job. They take it thinking ‘oh, this is going to be a piece of cake,’ and then they realize there’s a lot more to it than that,” O’Donnell said. “There’s just been a lot of change in the last few years. I’m really looking forward to it. I just hope I can do it justice.”

The program is not expected to take up her office hours, O’Donnell said, or require that the city pay any transportation costs that she incurs.

“I’m really going to strive to make sure that is doesn’t interfere with the job here,” O’Donnell said.

By Kate Hayden [email protected]

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