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Clerks

In all the furore over our local City government it seems likely that we frequently overlook the real treasures lurking in our midst. To make my point consider County Clerk Kim Davis in Kentucky, who has managed to find recent fame for refusing the Supreme Court’s order to allow gay marriage. Her approach is to simply say that “It’s a matter of heaven or hell for me” as she steadfastly refuses to issue gay individuals marriage licenses. This has become an embarrassment for the entire County, and has shown how primitive some parts of America can still be.

But perhaps the most important problem is that she took an oath of office- first to uphold the laws of the United States (with no “out” for personal exemptions) and second to uphold the Constitution of the US- again with no caveats about selectively ignoring certain parts of it. A City Clerk’s role is to be an agnostic- not allied with any party, faction, or other partisan or personal allegiance. His/her job is solely to execute the Civil duties required of her to allow the proper functioning of City (or County) government. In the Kentucky case cited here the government is not working as it should, and the penalties on both her and the community are about to start falling.

Thankfully we don’t have that problem here in Half Moon Bay. In fact our community is (for once) the gold standard when it comes to the civil management of City Hall. City Clerk Siobhan Smith has survived almost 20 years’ worth of varying administrations, from all walks of the political spectrum, and of varying talents, intellect, and ability. (Or perhaps inability…) Yet she has thrived in her role- principally because she is agnostic when it comes to our small town tussles and skirmishes. She has (in my personal experience) the rare talent to be able to separate herself form the fray, to represent all parties completely equally- under the law, and just plain morally, and she is thus the very antithesis of the Clerk in Kentucky who cannot understand the difference between state and religion.

So (and while I know this may make John Muller’s head explode- with me being so critical and all) my thanks to Siobhan Smith for everything she has done for us- for not confusing personal feelings with professional responsibility, and for taking care of the needs of our community in such amazing and capable form for the past two decades. Without her steady hand on the helm HMB would be in a much more disarrayed state than it is right now- and for that fact alone we all owe her a deep debt of gratitude.


Comments

You forgot to mention her perpetual smile, her constant professionalism and her ability to provide every request immediate recognition and service.

Oh, and I should mention that Ms Smith, who much prefers to be in the background and not discussed publicly, has survived fifteen (15!) City Managers in her time here.

Bless her little (huge) heart. She is the best of the best.


Yes- I didn't want to personalize it at all, but it is safe to say that I have personally added a great deal to Siobhan's workload over the past two years, and she has never been anything less than unfailingly polite, completely responsive, proactive to a fault, and in general the best possible resource I could ever have hoped for as a citizen in the community. She has called me back form conferences and vacations to insure that even a small detail doesn't get screwed up, and she has never, not once, failed to go further than I could have ever expected.

Where I come from the term "Civil Servant" is a bit of an epithet, but if more civil servants were like Siobhan then I'm guessing it would be a different story- and we wouldn't cringe every time we have to go to City Hall, or the DMV, or wherever...


Nice tribute to Ms Smith!


You've said it so well Wonk and George! She is an absolute treasure.

Pam


For those unfamiliar with the charge of the HMB City Clerk position, you can find it here: "The City Clerk is the Custodian of Records for the City of Half Moon Bay and serves as the City’s Election Official responsible for all General Municipal and Special Elections. The City Clerk’s primary responsibility is to accurately record the actions and proceedings of City Council meetings, administer the City’s Record Management Program, maintain the City of Half Moon Bay Municipal Code, administer regulations relating to the Fair Political Practices Commission and provide research and information services to the public and City personnel."

"The City Clerk's office is also responsible for the coordination and preparation of the City Council agenda. The City Clerk’s office provides ongoing administrative support to the City Council and responds to requests for public records."

That is quoted from the City website, here: Web Link

Now, for a question; I saw Ms Smith last week at City Hall. The next day I called her seeking ... you guessed it, information from the City (a document), and I got her voicemail.

I have called everyday since and have gotten the same voicemail.

So it's clear, I have received her voicemail (VM) from time to time before; but when she has been out of the office for any extended time, her VM always reflected that - that she was out of the office until X date, etc. I'm not getting that VM now. It has been over a week now and still the same.

Ms Smith wasn't in attendance at Tuesday's City Council meeting, either.

I sure hope she is OK.


Why not ask for her assistant Melinda. She also is very responsible/


Is there a power struggle between Ms. Smith and City Manager Magda Gonzalez?

More to follow


One Who Knows? Interesting handle.

First, the Deputy City Clerk position is filled by a young lady named Melissa Thurman, not a Melinda - so maybe you don't know as much as you think you know.

You are correct about one thing, however: Ms Melissa Thurman is very responsible - but that isn't the point here, is it?

I have been dealing with Ms Smith near twenty years now. Without fail, she has always been professional, even under extreme duress ... and that has happened under the roof of City Hall believe it or not.

I stated above that Siobhan Smith is, without a doubt, the best of the best - and I can very comfortably state that based on my own experiences.

I have dealt with many municipalities and many other government agencies over a great many years, and not just here in CA. In all my dealings, I have never run across an individual as dedicated, as professional, as pleasant, as knowledgable and as honest as Siobhan Smith, the HMB City Clerk; Period. And I have dealt with and seen a full spectrum of folks that fill the role that our City Clerk fills, good ones and bad ones.

So, when I see Ms Smith one day and get her VM for the next seven days (and counting) with no reason for absence or return date, I get concerned.

I hope that puts a finer point to your concern(s), One Who Knows.


I would also offer, to Mr Bills, that there should be No "power struggle" between the City Manager and the City Clerk. If each is doing their job, there should be no conflict; one is the City's top administrator and the other is the top City Clerk.

Now there may be a conflict there; we will find out - but a power struggle? I doubt that.

Knowing the City Clerk for as long as I have, I can comfortably and honestly state that she has no issue with position or titles. She just does her job and does it very well.

If one were to doubt that, just think about one of my observations above: "Oh, and I should mention that Ms Smith, who much prefers to be in the background and not discussed publicly, has survived fifteen (15!) City Managers in her time here."

Anyone that has even a cursory knowledge of HMB politics can easily understand how difficult that would be to accomplish - Unless one took their job very seriously (as Ms Smith has & does) and stayed out of all the BS political struggles going on all around.

That falls under another observation I made above regarding the utmost professional manner in which Ms Smith approaches and does her job.

If there is some conflict, you can bet your bottom dollar that it is none of the City Clerk's doing.


I stopped by City Hall today looking for some information I have requested. Nothing unusual about that.

What is unusual, however, is that the City Clerk is still absent. That is now a week and a half that Ms Smith has not been at work. No information coming from 'staff' on this matter. It's like everyone was told to shut-up on and about it! Not a good sign, in my experience.

There is something going on here and, from my experience(s) with the City, it is not good; not good at all.

I will continue to monitor this matter and others, that individually & cumulatively are not at all flattering for the City. In addition, I will post items of significance and importance as I can.


Thank you George for being willing to follow up. I wish you luck.

The problem with an information vacuum is that one's imagination gets a workout.

Short of really crazy theories, I could possibly imagine a scenario where Siobhan might have stood her ground and refused to do something she knew to be illegal or unethical. We are all concerned about her absence and its further implications about the "health" and stability (?) of our City Government. Fifteen city managers in how many years??

Keep us posted!

Pam


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