For 30 years now, one woman has kept a watchful eye on Soldotna city business, keeping track of everything from municipal elections to city council meetings. Now, after a career of being the person everyone turns to for information on city government, Pat Burdick is about to sign off.
On Oct. 31, Burdick will officially retire from the city, meaning Wednesday's city council meeting was her last as clerk. Just like always, Burdick diligently kept a record of who spoke and what they said. But unlike most meetings, Burdick also recorded more than a few bits of praise for the person who has quietly served as the cornerstone of Soldotna's city government for three decades.
"I have appreciated Mrs. Burdick's persistence, prodding and pounding, if necessary over the years, and we're going to miss her," said City Manager Tom Boedeker.
Burdick's main role at council meetings is to record what's said for the meeting minutes and to record council votes. But more often than not, she's also looked to for guidance on procedural matters, often reminding council members how to make a motion or phrase a question or even when to show up.
Council member Jim Stogsdill said he can remember Burdick calling him up just minutes before a council meeting to remind him he needed to be at city hall. He said had it not been for her, he would have had a tough time serving in city government.
"She's basically told me what to do all this time," Stogsdill said.
As Wednesday's meeting wound down, the praise for Burdick picked up. Kenai City Clerk Carol Freas attended Wednesday's meeting, and brought with her a list of some of the amazing things Burdick has accomplished in her time with the city.
Freas said she estimates Burdick is responsible for typing 100,000 pages of general information and 12,000 pages of minutes, recording 720 meeting tapes, presiding over at least 30 municipal elections and attending approximately 800 city council meetings. In addition, Freas said Burdick has seen a lot of changes in the city, including the construction of a new Soldotna City Hall, the move from hand-counted ballots to electronic counting and a population increase from 1,000 in 1973 to 3,759 in 2003.
"And, like me, the color of your hair," joked Freas.
Burdick, who typically shuns the spotlight, downplayed the praise she got Wednesday evening.
"You just left out one title," she told Freas. "I'm the resident nag."
"You're allowed to be after 30 years," Kenai's clerk replied.
Although she might call herself a "nag," everyone who spoke Wednesday of Burdick praised her for her professionalism and diligence in a position that is often overlooked, but highly valued in the city.
"I think of Pat as the matriarch of the city, as well as the history of the city, as keeper of the records," said Linda Rainmaker, a teacher at Skyview High School. "The city is really going to be losing a valuable employee."
However, even though Burdick is retiring, she's still going to remain a familiar face around the city. She plans to volunteer at the Soldotna Public Library after she's done as clerk which won't actually come at the end of the month.
City Manager Tom Boedeker told the council that a replacement clerk already has been hired, but won't be in town until Nov. 10. So in the meantime, Burdick will continue to serve as clerk on an interim basis.
Boedeker announced that the new clerk will be Teresa Fahning, a former Soldotna resident who currently serves as city clerk in Sacramento, Calif. Boedeker said he's excited to have such a qualified replacement lined up for Burdick, and that Fahning is looking forward to working for the city.
"She said it's good to be coming home," he said.
Although Soldotna has lined up a solid replacement for Burdick, Mayor Dave Carey said it's going to be hard to see her go.
"No one could replace this woman," Carey said.
For her part, Burdick said she's gratified to hear such praise, although a little uncomfortable with the fact that she has to type up a record of Wednesday's praise.
"I wonder if you realize how embarrassing it is to write down this stuff," she said.
Burdick went on to praise the current council, as well as the countless city employees and officials she's worked with over the years.
"The batch I am working with now is a batch of the best folks I've had to work with in the last 30 years," she said. "... I truly appreciate everyone I have worked with and for."
After a few more wishes of good luck and praise for a job well done from the council, Mayor Carey offered Burdick one last bit of thanks.
"Ma'am, I wish you well," he said.
Then, with the clerk dutifully keeping track beside him, Carey called Mrs. Burdick's final council meeting to a close.
"Is there any other business to come before the council?" he asked. "We stand adjourned."
In other action Wednesday, the council:
n Certified the results of the Oct. 7 municipal election. Jim Stogsdill and Sharon Moock, who both ran unopposed for reelection, retained their seats on the council.
n Authorized the purchase of a new financial software package from Caselle Inc. for $79,729. Boedeker told the council that after checking out at least 17 software companies, city employees felt Caselle was the right choice to replace the city's current software, which is becoming obsolete.
n Set a public hearing for Nov. 19 to discuss the acceptance of a $1,485,000 wastewater system improvement grant from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.
n Set a public hearing for Nov. 19 to discuss amending the Soldotna Municipal Code to allow for 50-foot wide street right-of-ways in planned unit developments. Currently, the code calls for at least 60 feet of right-of-way on residential streets.
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