Apache Junction’s new city clerk brings years of experience

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The city of Apache Junction welcomes its new city clerk and the 18 years-experience that Jennifer Peña has in the municipal clerk’s offices.

The veteran municipal official was appointed deputy city clerk last December and served as acting city clerk for four months before officially taking over the reigns from Kathy Connelly, who spent nearly 40 years with the city, mainly leading the city clerk’s office.

Ms. Peña, whose career started with the City of Peoria, spent 12 years as deputy city clerk, assistant to the mayor, and part time intergovernmental affairs liaison in Litchfield Park. She recently spent five years as assistant to the city clerk in Chandler.

She plans to expand on efforts to lead the clerk’s office into the future while overseeing city elections, “in accordance with local, state, and federal laws, including the coordination of candidate nomination and other documentation.”

As city clerk, she maintains official city records, including ordinances, resolutions, council reports, agendas and minutes and contracts according to the state statute.

Her office is busy keeping up with processing public record requests, business, liquor, bingo and off-track licenses and auditing city sales taxes.

Describing herself as “young at heart, aged with the wisdom of time and experience, and still up for challenges,” Ms. Peña, a certified municipal clerk and a certified municipal election official, took time out of what she called a “tough day and very busy,” to answer questions for the Independent.

Are you an Arizona native; and if not, where are you originally from?
I am originally from Washington state, born and raised. College at Seattle Pacific University and Central Washington University.

What does your family consist of, i.e.: spouse, kids, pets, etc.?
Currently married with three grown children and two rescue pups.

What interested you in public service?
I originally worked in the private sector for a software firm, my neighbor mentioned an open position with the City of Peoria, much closer to home, which would allow me to attend my kids’ many activities, so I applied and shortly after began my new career.

What have you learned from serving various municipalities such as Litchfield Park, Chandler and Peoria?
So many things and not all policy and procedure. Each municipality --- while it has its similarities --- must tailor its services for what is best for its residents and the community. Most important is it takes a group of team players.

The objectives and goals must be defined, a great support system/team in place and the help of others, including outside your organization. To keep your eyes and ears open for that faint whisper of an idea that may just lead to better things. Keep an open mind, earn and keep the trust of others, and be diligent in your words and actions.

What was involved in getting certified in your specialties?
There are unique and different responsibilities of a clerk’s office and of a city clerk. It takes years of training, education and experience in all these areas to achieve certification by our professional organization, the International Institute of Municipal Clerks. The Arizona Municipal Clerks Association is the state chapter.

There are so many rules and laws related to the different electoral processes, records management, municipal budget requirements, open meeting laws, conflict of interest laws and many other areas of knowledge that we need to know. So lots of education and experience.

What does being a city clerk entail?
Along with what I mentioned above it requires you to look towards the future for many things; such as process improvements, budgetary efficiency because we are responsible to be diligent with the budget, work on finding matching funds and what might the city be faced with down the road.

Will you be doing anything different to enhance or improve the position?
There have been many changes made already within our office. We are scanning a majority of documents in preparation for a document management system. This year, the municipal candidate packet is available online, fillable forms for public record requests is about complete, the same for applying for business licenses.

Applications for grants to our non-profit organizations are now online. We are still working on updating our web pages to provide more information to the community and many other projects have already had various improvements. Input from other city departments have proved invaluable insight on other improvements which affect their departments as well.

What do you like most about the job?
I love the city clerk’s office and everything this office touches. I have been customer service-oriented at a very young age and as times change and technology advances, we all need help at some point. Either being able to help, or know where to look or who to ask, is just as important as knowing. I enjoy people and hearing about their life experiences.

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