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December 26, 2006 > City 'family' gets the job done

City 'family' gets the job done

by Steve Warga

Newark's new city clerk, Sheila Harrington, hadn't even been formally presented, Thursday, December 14 before she faced the first critical test of her position. With a game show host's sense of the moment, Mayor David Smith playfully monitored Harrington's performance as she stood in the production room door, awaiting the "action" command from within. To everyone's relief, Harrington cued Mayor Dave with all the aplomb of a veteran. Her future bodes well, despite a lack of any "Yowza Band" talents.

When first introduced at city council meeting, rookie Newark employees find themselves subjected to Smith's tongue-in-cheek grilling of their musical talents. Of course, employment is actually based on different skill sets, but the city's locally renowned Yowza Band really is composed of musically-inclined city politicians and staffers. More to the point, the very concept of this band suggests a sense of unity and family atmosphere prevalent throughout city hall and all Newark facilities. In ways not easily defined, Newark manages to distinguish itself above others when it comes to employee camaraderie.

Nowhere was this sense of family more evident than in the "Presentations and Proclamations" portion of the December14 meeting, council's first since early November. Immediately after introducing Harrington and new Community Development Director Terrence Grindall, Smith bid farewell to three, long-time city family members. As he often does, the mayor proudly noted the exceptional longevity of Newark staff members. Many staffers happily acknowledge that job and salary first attracts them, but then the great morale and unity keeps them from seriously considering working anywhere else.

In the farewells, Smith first recognized Planning Commissioner Joseph Maes for his 28 years of service. Maes sent his regrets for not attending, having fallen ill to the same virus that kept Councilmember Al Nagy away that night. Smith then moved on to Street Maintenance Worker II John Chacon, who retired after 33 years with the city. Chacon humbly accepted lavish praise for his outstanding work ethics and the personal charm he brought to his work, every day. A rare, standing ovation followed Smith's presentation to Chacon.

Finally, council accepted the retirement papers of Assistant City Manager Jim Reese who's ready to spend more time with his boat. Reese is also planning to "tie the knot" with his finance of three days, Sarah, who gleefully displayed a fine diamond engagement ring. A 17-year Newark veteran, Reese was recruited from Rock Hill, South Carolina and brought glowing credentials from that city's mayor. Smith emphasized his complete satisfaction with how Reese consistently exceeded even those lofty expectations. Reese, too, received a standing ovation.

Along with a reputation for high employee morale, Newark is known for its refreshingly brief city council meetings. Business moves swiftly with little interruption, as councilmembers refrain from commenting on every single item on the agenda. They'll each have their say when they see fit, but as a group, they exhibit greater wisdom than other politicians in choosing when to express their thoughts. As a result, they communicate much more clearly with their constituents. Perhaps this is why Newark City Councilmembers also enjoy remarkable longevity.

The December 14 meeting did run unusually long, but only in comparison to Newark's usual practices. Council and staff processed a plethora of zoning questions and other routine city business with a minimum of fuss and bother. Council's next meeting will be January 11 at 7:30 p.m.

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