Long-time City Clerk Sandy Chase ready to retire — but you’ll still see her around Edmonds
From coordinating City Council meeting agendas to overseeing dangerous dog registrations, you might say that Sandy Chase’s 35-point job description is not only long, but diverse. So when the 20-year City Clerk announced her resignation a few months ago — effective Oct. 31 — there was no question she was leaving big shoes to fill.
“Sandy Chase is one of the most well-respected city clerks in this region, and is a valuable part of our team,” Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling said in city press release announcing Chase’s departure. “She performs her job with excellence, and she will be missed greatly.”
For a woman who has served under five different mayors, worked with numerous city councilmembers and staffed hundreds of city council meetings during her tenure, she struggles to find just one memory that stands out from the rest. However, the normally calm and reserved Chase did take an opportunity to offer a quick, but sincere, quip: “I’ve seen a lot and heard a lot, and I wanted to assure the city council that I’m not going to write a book,” she said with a smile.
Overseeing a staff of four, Chase is responsible for ensuring Edmonds City Council meeting agendas are drafted and posted, that citizens and the media are notified of public hearings and special meetings, that public records requests and claims for damages are processed, and that business licenses and parking permits are issued. (And that only covers the first couple of pages of the eight-page job description.) She also makes sure appropriate documents are filed for city elections, that the city reception desk is staffed and phones answered, that mail is distributed and official signatures are notarized — among dozens of other duties.
But for those who attend City Council meetings, Chase is the quiet voice that reminds the mayor and councilmembers of ordinance and resolution numbers and meeting protocols. She records votes and once actions are complete, she ensures that any changes to city law are codified — a process in which the city’s ordinances are grouped together so that they can more easily be researched later. While she doesn’t take the meeting minutes herself — “Jeannie Dines, who is the minute taker, she’s the secret to my success,” Chase declares — Chase is responsible for ensuring that the minutes are recorded accurately. And that’s a task made more challenging given the level of detail that City of Edmonds minutes require — a process that most other cities don’t follow.
“We take such detailed minutes it’s amazing they are not corrected more often,” Chase said, adding that the recommended protocol is to do more high-level “action minutes,” that aren’t likely to be subject to interpretation.
“It’s been tradition and through the years I would try to cut them back a little bit,” Chase said, “but it would be a citizen or a councilmember [saying] “I really want this in there, why didn’t you do that?” Now that the city streams all of its council meetings live over the city website, and the video records appear immediately after as part of the council agenda, it may be a good time to make a change, Chase said, now that new City Clerk Scott Passey, hired as her replacement, is at the helm.
Chase said that one of the biggest changes she has seen in her two decades of City Clerk work, is the significant increase in the number of public records requests — from about one per month when she started her job to about 25 each month currently. (That number doesn’t include police public records requests, which are handled separately.) In addition, the requests are complex and time-consuming because they usually involve a large volume of email correspondence that has to be reviewed prior to disclosure in case it violates attorney-client privilege or other legal requirements.
“It totally dominates the job,” said Chase, noting that the city had to hire a half-time assistant whose main responsibility is to fulfill such requests. For example, it’s estimated that one current request — for all emails sent to a councilmember since that person took office — will take the better part of a year to fulfill “just due to the volume,” she said.
With all of her duties, Chase is able to point to one of the favorite aspects of the job: “I love the citizen who is from a foreign country and they need someone from the city to sign a document stating they are alive so they can get their pensions in their country,” she said. “It’s usually a very elderly person and they come back year after year. I’m afraid they are going to miss me when I’m not here this year.”
With retirement, Chase said that she is looking forward to “everything that I haven’t been able to do in so long because truly all my focus and energy goes into the job.” Her sister from Missouri is coming to visit for a week, and she is also hoping to spend more time with her grandchildren — a 14-month old grandson who lives with son Ryan and wife Teresa in Seattle and three small grandchildren now in Cambodia with son Jeremy and his wife Maria, who are missionaries there. (Chase and her husband Chris, a pastor at Edmonds’ North Sound Church, are planning a trip to Cambodia in January.)
And while Chase will no longer sit in her familiar spot at city council meetings, you can expect to see her around town. “I fully intend to be active in the community,” she said.