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City Clerk versus Deputy Clerk at Candidates Forum

October 20, 2004
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesIt was City Clerk versus Deputy City Clerk at the Chamber of Commerce-Latino Town Hall Candidates Forum held Wednesday at the Community Center, where incumbent Steve Salas and opponent Josie Herrera spoke about the duties of the office and whether or not attendance at City Council meetings should be necessary.Forum Moderator Doug Green noted that the candidates had received the questions in advance.Salas was unopposed when he ran for the post four years ago, succeeding his father, former City Clerk Victor Salas.“I feel that I can advocate for the citizens of Santa Paula; I’m an independent business owner with no special ties to the city,” said Salas.His main emphasis has been on “education of children” regarding voting and related matters, said Salas, who recruited eligible Santa Paula High School students to help at the polls on Election Day.Herrera, assistant to City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz and Deputy Clerk for five years, said she is running “because I am committed to serving the people of Santa Paula and am available to you on a daily basis. I would be an elected official at City Hall on a fulltime basis.”Herrera noted that she already attends all council and special meetings and “I am more experienced in the duties,” of the City Clerk including meeting records and the closing of bids, among others.“I’m dedicated,” to providing the highest quality of support services to citizens, Herrera added.When asked what are the key responsibilities of the job Herrera said one of the “main functions is to maintain city records,” an effort that includes her quest to move ahead on the electronic organization of records dating back to 1902.Attendance at council meetings is also a responsibility of the position, she added.At such meetings, “So much is discussed and I receive phone calls,” from citizens seeking information on meetings as well as those who hear of special events and are interested in participating. “It helps if the city clerk is there on a full time basis…I do all the functions of the office, it is my profession and those are my main duties, keeping a record and attending meetings.““I know this topic would come up and I’m glad it did,” said Salas, a private investigator.
Salas spent much of his allotted time reading the state guidelines for city clerks and their duties.A former City Clerk who was also a city employee “Missed quite a few meetings but no one brought this up. I fulfill my duties, that’s why voters have elected an independent city clerk for the last 15 years.”Green asked the candidates’ ability and commitment to attend council meetings and Herrera noted that although she has missed several over the years her attendance record is superior to Salas’.“I respect him very much,” she noted but Salas attended only 33 percent of council meetings so far this year, 42 percent last year, 52 percent in 2002 and in 2001, 50 percent, said Herrera.Those watching council meetings on television often believe she is the City Clerk: “The public is watching,” Herrera noted.“I am concerned about making the meetings and am going to adjust my schedule,” to better his attendance, but there have been many special meetings in the past requiring his attendance at up to four a month, said Salas.“It makes it more difficult for me because I work nights. I’m the chief elections official,” and has to take the day off on Election Day to fulfill his duties. “I have volunteered a lot of my time and money translating documents for children and working to get bilingual poll workers.”Salas noted that he and Herrera “worked really well as a team, she’s in administration,” while he is away working on the behalf of citizens.Salas noted that he is a city native and “it is important for me do things for the people. I didn’t realize I had the ability to do so as a link between the people and the city,” including businesses.A Santa Paula resident for 18 years, Herrera said she moved to a “wonderful place, hometown America. I’ve worked for the city for nine years and I enjoy my job, put in many hours and have gone back to school to further my career. Everyone has been supportive…I really respect the clerk and either way, we work great together.”