PALMDALE — Longtime Palmdale City Clerk Rebecca Smith will retire Thursday after 21 years with the city.
The city clerk is one of the most important positions in municipal government. City clerks are the local elections official. They manage the election process, which includes processing candidates. Their duties include support for the City Council and keeper of public records.
The City will have an election on Nov. 3. The mayor and two council seats are up for election. The filing period closed Friday.
“I’ll be keeping my eye on it,” Smith said, “too many years here not to wonder what’s in it because I was able to meet the candidates and work with them.”
Smith worked as a paralegal before she came to the city in 1999. She started as deputy city clerk. She became acting city clerk in 2009 when the prior city clerk Victoria Hancock retired. Smith became city clerk in 2010.
‘We are a very fast-paced, busy office. We touch every department,” Smith said.
Smith creates the City Council agenda, including meetings minutes. All of the official records are kept in Smith’s office.
“We get to know a little bit about every aspect of the city and see it firsthand,” Smith said.
Smith reads all of the staff reports, agreements, and resolutions that go before the council.
“Not that you become experts but you get a taste of everything, and that makes it interesting and challenging,” Smith said.
The job also requires a lot of focus and flexibility
‘We come in sometimes and jump right on it,” Smith said.
Smith enjoys election season. Part of her job is to meet with candidates, go over the nomination process, including all of the legal filings, and give them an overview of the city.
“It’s exciting to see young people coming in, the inexperienced candidate running for the first time, as well as the seasoned candidates,” Smith said.
Candidates share their platform with Smith.
“We stay very neutral and try to make sure that each one of them get the same information. We want each candidate to have a successful campaign,” Smith said.
Smith has been through 13 elections, including four on her own as city clerk.
The most challenging election was in November 2016 when Palmdale moved to Council districts after city officials agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging the city violated the California Voting Rights Act.
“All seats were open for office and that was a challenge,” Smith said.
Smith has since been able to share information about how the city moved forward with council districts with other city clerks.
“It is fun to meet people who have a passion and want to run for office,” Smith said.
Smith and her husband Steven, who retired last week from the Department of Water Resources, plan to travel and camp. “I hear that the state parks are not as busy as they used to be, and the national parks,” Smith said.
The couple has four adult children — two sons and two daughters.
“I’m very grateful that my husband and I can retire together and start experiencing new adventures, new memories,” Smith said. “I’m so excited to able to spend time with my grandchildren.”
The City Council honored Smith at their Aug. 4 meeting.
Councilwoman Laura Bettencourt thanked Smith for keeping things in order, and making sure they follow the rules for their campaigns and political positions.
“Without you I’m going to be completely lost, so I’m going to miss you both that way and a friend,” Bettencourt said. “I appreciate everything that you’ve done for all of us, so thank you and enjoy your retirement, make the best of it.”
Councilman Juan Carrillo also thanked Smith for everything she has done for the city’s residents, city employees and numerous elected officials she helped through the process of going through an election.
“I personally want to thank you for doing the best you can to keep me in line with reminding me of forms that are supposed to be filed in a timely manner,” Carrillo said.
Mayor Pro Tem Richard Loa said Smith filled Hancock’s shoes with a great deal of grace, diplomacy, and firmness.
“Because you weren’t going to let people get away with stuff, but you did it with a soft touch,” Loa said.
Councilman Austin Bishop appreciated the hard work Smith put into the city clerk’s office.
“You’ve done your job very well and very eloquently and with class. I appreciate that,” Bishop said.
City Manager J.J. Murphy said the city was lucky to have Smith for so long.
“You are certainly going to be missed. They’re going to be hard shoes to fill,” Murphy said.
Mayor Steve Hofbauer likened Smith to a scout troop “den mother” who keeps the council in line.