Arnold reflects on her ‘city family’

Published 11:59 pm Friday, November 11, 2016

Greenville city clerk Sue Arnold closes a quarter-century-long chapter of service to the Camellia City community at the end of 2016.

Greenville city clerk Sue Arnold closes a quarter-century-long chapter of service to the Camellia City community at the end of 2016.

It’s been 25 years since Sue Arnold started working for the City of Greenville, and she’s seen many changes take place in that quarter-century.

“I was initially hired to cover Medicaid and insurance billing for the new rescue unit created to transport patients on ER calls and worked with  Chief Mike Phillips of the GFD from January until May,” Arnold recalls. ‘Mike is one of the finest fellows you could ever hope to meet and he helped get me off to a great start with the City.”

She made the move to the City Clerk’s Office in May 1993, becoming an assistant in charge of accounts payable under then-City Clerk Linda Vandenbosch. In 2006, she assumed the position of City Clerk following Vandenbosch’s retirement.  Arnold describes her predecessor as a smart lady and consummate professional who expected no less from those working under her. “Linda trained me so very well,” she says.

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And my, how technology has changed since she began working at City Hall.

“When I started, it was back in the days when we still had IBM Selectrix typewriters and dot matrix printers. Quite different from today,” she says with a nod.

“When we did get real honest-to-goodness computers, it was expensive and intense. They had to run cables underground and above the ceilings inside City Hall.”

And then this new-fangled thing called “email” arrived on the scene.

“I actually remember saying, ‘I don’t think I need an email account. We won’t use it that much.’ Lo and behold, this is how we all communicate now. It’s the way of the world,” says Arnold.

In some ways, she says, city government has changed a lot, with more mandates in place than in the past.

And yet, it is also still the same.

“We have the same purpose for city government we had when I started and that’s to provide for the people. At the end of the day, it’s still important to be good stewards of our citizens’ tax dollars,” Arnold stresses.

A certified municipal clerk and a member of the Alabama Association of Municipal Clerks and Administrators, Arnold describes the City Clerk’s office as the hub of municipal government, with everything “flowing through the clerk’s office at one time or another.”

And details are very important, Arnold says. “It’s important to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ with all your records. Otherwise, it’s possible something could come back and bite you. Our office takes real pride in our record keeping, because whenever we’ve had to go back and research an issue, we’ve been able to find what we need quickly,” she says, adding, “And that’s because we did it right the first time.”

There is a huge volume of data processed through the City Clerk’s office, Arnold says. Call it “Information Central.”

“If we had a shingle for this office, it could be a mile long. We have dealt with everything from beehives outside someone’s door to sharing the phone number of the jailhouse,” Arnold, explains.

There are those moments that truly stand out in time for Arnold since she joined city government. The death of police officer Gary Heath (“Back then, shootings of police officers were not a common thing”). The devastation caused by weather events like Ivan and Opal.  Elections.

Through it all, Arnold says her “city family” has been a constant source of support for one another.

“I really cannot say enough about our city council, department heads and every single employee. We are a tight bunch and we take care of each other,” she says. “It is really a very special bond.”

As a mother, Arnold is looking forward to the opportunity retirement offers her to spend more time with her daughter, Jennifer Grace, a senior at Fort Dale Academy, and with her grandchildren. “I have to admit I am glad I won’t have to keep juggling ‘work world’ and ‘family world.’  I’ve served under two mayors and some fine council members who have all been gracious in allowing me some flexibility to attend school events. Now I will truly be able to focus on my family,” Arnold says.

And in a world where there is increasing incivility, she adds, “I am so glad I had this opportunity to serve under city councils who approached each meeting with professionalism and a businesslike attitude. No fights, no riots in Greenville.”

She looks back on her years as a public servant with pride and satisfaction, believing she has made a positive difference in her community.

“The most rewarding aspect of this job has definitely been knowing I have helped people,” Arnold says. “That’s what we are here for, after all, from the police chief right down to the garbage man. We are here to serve the public and we should take pride in what we do.”