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New city clerk to be named

Jenny Lancour | Daily Press Escanaba City Clerk Robert “Bob” Richards stands beside a row of personal computers in his office Wednesday. Richards is retiring later this month. His successor will be announced at tonight’s council meeting.

ESCANABA — The successor for retiring Escanaba City Clerk Bob Richards will be announced at tonight’s regular meeting of council, which added the agenda item after interviewing three candidates for the job Tuesday.

Current City Clerk Bob Richards, 62, of Escanaba, is retiring after working in municipal government for 38 years, including the past 25 years he has served as Escanaba’s city clerk.

A total of 20 people applied for the clerk vacancy. Last month, council narrowed down the field of candidates to three finalists — Lisa Glish, Kim Gustafson and Tammy Weissert, who were questioned by council on Tuesday during individual public interviews.

“I thought the interviews went very well,” commented Mayor Marc Tall on Wednesday. “We had three very intelligent women who applied for the job… It’s going to be a tough decision.”

Weissert is currently the administrative secretary for the city clerk, Glish is currently the executive assistant for the city manager, and Gustafson is an assistant program manager at Public Health of Delta and Menominee Counties. All three are from Escanaba.

Each candidate answered questions from council members who inquired about their knowledge of the clerk’s office, as well as their knowledge about information technology, which has become a large part of the job, said Tall.

City Manager Patrick Jordan attended Tuesday’s public meeting and agreed the interview process went well.

“I think it was real objective. The same questions were asked of each candidate. The questions were fair. It was a good process,” Jordan commented.

Tall explained that after Tuesday’s interviews, council members were given a couple days to reflect on the candidates and think about the best replacement for Richards.

“He’ll be missed,” added the mayor, noting the finalist will have a large amount of work to catch up on to be as efficient as Richards.

Richards began working as the city clerk in June of 1993. Prior to Escanaba, he worked for the city of Grand Rapids.

The Escanaba native graduated from Escanaba High School and attended Bay de Noc Community College. He later graduated from Michigan Technological University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in forestry and a minor in urban forestry.

Following college, he worked for a Grand Rapids tree company before being hired at the Grand Rapids city forestry department. When he lost that job due to budget cuts, he was hired as an accounting clerk for Grand Rapids’ community development programs.

Richards transferred to the city controller’s office where he worked as an accounting clerk and also worked in the city’s budget office as a level II accounting clerk. He was later promoted to the city’s water department where he headed the billing accounts division, working with 78,000 accounts and $47 million in monthly billing.

As city clerk for Escanaba, Richards serves as council’s secretary, the city record keeper, Freedom of Information coordinator, legislative director, and administrator for all the local, state and federal elections held in the city.

Through the years, as Escanaba adapted to changes in technology, Richards also became the go-to person for the city’s information and technology systems. As the IT administrator, he created Escanaba’s website and Facebook and Twitter accounts.

A major change in elections occurring under Richards’ leadership was the old and outdated voting machines dating back to 1958 that were replaced with more user-friendly auto-scan ballot machines in 1998.

“It’s been a wonderful career working 38 years in municipal government,” said Richards during an interview with the Daily Press on Wednesday.

“I’ve enjoyed the people here at city hall, both past and present, and I enjoy working with the public. We try to help them out the best we can so we can solve their issues.”

Richards will be retiring on May 18. He said he plans to take it easy for the first year of retirement.

The city clerk job is one of three city positions which council decides. The other two are the city manager and the city assessor.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, jlancour@dailypress.net

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