Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

Most people really have no idea what a city councilmember does. I thought I’d share just one month’s worth of activities. I keep all of my calendars and monthly logs. I manage to get a majority of my activities on them but I slip sometimes and some activities never get memorialized. I reviewed one of my previous monthly calendars and logs to see what I actually did that month and compiled this list:

  • Over 60 in person or phone contacts with constituents. I have received calls as early as 7 AM and as late as 10 PM
  • 20 meetings with city personnel from monthly meetings with the City Manager and City Attorney to a city court update to staff briefings on current issues
  • 4 meetings with zoning attorneys to discuss land development proposals
  • 4 luncheon meetings with constituents
  • 1 grand opening of a district business
  • 2 ribbon cuttings for businesses
  • 2 organization formal luncheons
  • 3 trips to look at specific code violations in the district
  • 2 council workshop meetings followed by executive sessions (could last anywhere from 2 to 6 hours)
  • 2 council evening voting meetings (average of 2 hours)
  • approximately 40 hours of reading and researching in preparation for council workshops/ voting meetings along with emailed (or in person) questions for staff on agendized issues
  • produce 4 weekly E News bulletins
  • attend 2 neighborhood meetings
  • a monthly average of about 400 miles driven
  • countless hours of phone, in person or email contact with one’s council assistant
  • going shopping or out to eat often produces an encounter with a district/city resident

This is a fairly accurate snapshot. No two days are alike. As a councilmember one has to be flexible. It’s certainly not a 9 to 5 job. Occasionally there will be a day with just one meeting and a business lunch but there were many days filled from 9 AM to well into the evening.

A councilmember needs to be adaptable to new situations and new concepts. One has to love learning on topics ranging from the intricacies of water delivery, to budget and finance, to code violations, to land planning. It’s important to be curious and to ask questions about anything and everything. I have found it critical to listen for you never know what you will learn by doing so. Upon occasion listening to other points of view has caused me to change my initial opinion on an issue.

A councilmember is not just a representative of the city but is truly its ambassador whether it is locally, regionally or nationally. We are charged with presenting adopted city positions on a variety of issues. We are the public faces of the city whether it is at a local business ribbon cutting, or a formal district meeting, or a local organization’s luncheon, or a city event. We represent our city by serving on regional groups and non-profits and periodically we interface with our state’s congressional delegation. Most importantly we represent you, the citizens of Glendale. We are your voice. This is our greatest and gravest responsibility.

We are the policy makers. We receive assessments and reports on upcoming issues about which we will make a decision from city personnel as well as a myriad of comments from Glendale’s citizens. We must make decisions as important as water and sanitation rates to items as routine as approving a city procurement contract. We must approve or deny dozens of proposed subdivisions every year. We must decide on highly charged issues such as billboards, a library sale, chickens and recently Stonehaven.

We are expected to be diplomats in an effort not to offend on so many different levels. We must be able to interact with all, from janitor to king. We must be empathetic, interested and caring. We are expected to walk into a room full of strangers and to strike up a conversation.

Are we paid for our service? Yes. In Glendale, a councilmember earns $35,000 a year. Other cities compensate their councilmembers at different rates. An individual’s finances often demands that a councilmember be retired or be self-employed. Sometimes it becomes difficult for a self-employed councilmember to juggle the priorities of his or her business with the demands of the position. There is no doubt that their businesses often suffer.

The irregular hours and the varied demands of the job cause us to truly value our private time, especially with family. Holidays often require our presence at a city event. Family dinners usually don’t happen on Tuesdays which are council meeting or workshop days or on other evenings which require council presence at a formal event or attendance at a board meeting. 

It’s a unique position. One must be committed to service for it certainly isn’t about the pay. Yet because the days (and some evenings) are so varied it becomes a job like no other. Some love it. Others find that the demands are more than they wish to give. I love it.

© Joyce Clark, 2017                 


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