After 25 years of work — including more than 3,000 ordinances and resolutions with dozens of elected officials and countless encounters with Norfolk citizens — Beth Deck has handed over the reins of the office of the city clerk.
Deck, a graduate of Pierce High School and Wayne State College, began working for the City of Norfolk in 1989 as a secretary to the city clerk, Betty Bohac, after working several other jobs for area banks and law offices. She was appointed city clerk in April 1994.
The city clerk is an important job in the city government. In the city code, the clerk’s responsibilities are defined as being “a liaison between citizens of the community, elected officials and city staff.”
Deck said that she believes the most important reason for having a city clerk is making sure an accurate record is kept.
“(I) keep an exact record so people know what has occurred, and retain those records for future generations,” she said.
Deck said her favorite aspect of the job was the variety of responsibilities that come with the job. Among her favorite responsibilities was helping with the census and redistricting the voting wards and precincts in Norfolk.
“It may sound silly, but that was fun,” she said. “There’s always a lot to do. It’s definitely not just a 40-hours-a-week job, but I’ve always loved the variety and the people here.”
She also said helping regular people through her work is rewarding. One experience that stuck out was a situation involving a veteran who last year had trouble with the billing process for an ambulance. After helping him work through the process, Deck said she felt good for being able to help.
“That process has really expanded with regulations, but it’s good to be able to help people pay their bills,” she said. “I like to be able to help him and other veterans and thank them for their service.”
When Deck took over the job in 1994, the city was going through significant changes internally as computers and the internet began to enter everyday life.
“When I started, we were just getting computers and networks,” she said. “Before that, we used to have to call the police station when an agenda packet was ready to go out for a meeting, and they would hand deliver them to elected officials.”
The advent of the internet and social media also allowed more and more citizen involvement throughout the city, Deck said, which has some benefits.
Another change in Deck’s time was a shifting attitude towards security.
“We upgraded the security of our buildings, and that’s obviously a big concern now but it never used to be,” Deck said.
Deck said that ultimately, she felt it was time to retire and focus on her family farm and other interests. When she first started working out of college, she said it was hard to imagine the day ever coming.
“When you’re in your 20s and 30s, you think you’ll never reach retirement age,” Deck said. “But it happens faster than you think.”