Thursday, October 23, 2014

Clerk logs 30 years at Wellsville

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 5/2/2014

WELLSVILLE ­— Donna Layton has worn many hats in her 30 years as Wellsville city clerk, she said. The job never was narrowed down to just one set of responsibilities.

“For a small town like Wellsville, [the city clerk job] is everything,” Layton said. “You wear many, many hats. You are the accountant, the HR person ... because it is a small town, you have a small staff. In bigger cities, you are going to have different people handling these different departments. Here, you just have to do it all.”

WELLSVILLE ­— Donna Layton has worn many hats in her 30 years as Wellsville city clerk, she said. The job never was narrowed down to just one set of responsibilities.

“For a small town like Wellsville, [the city clerk job] is everything,” Layton said. “You wear many, many hats. You are the accountant, the HR person ... because it is a small town, you have a small staff. In bigger cities, you are going to have different people handling these different departments. Here, you just have to do it all.”

Layton retired Wednesday from the post — where she’s been since 1987, after three years as Wellsville’s utility clerk. She was promoted to city clerk in after the departure of her boss, Jerry Bennett, she said.

Layton, rural Wellsville, said she loved being a people person at her job, which required her to attend more than 800 evening meetings for the city throughout her career, not including her normal work day.

“In the beginning, I was the court clerk, the planning commission secretary, the zoning appeals board secretary, the city clerk. I was attending all of those meetings and court sessions,” she said. “It has been active, like I said, 800 evening meetings, I’ve had to sacrifice some family time for the job, and now I get to fully give myself back to them. I want to be there for my kids and my grandkids and really enjoy them.”

Spending more time with family and traveling are some of Layton’s new goals, she said, but sticking with the City of Wellsville for 30 years helped her to achieve another reward already.

“I am so thankful that I made this decision to stay here and do this,” Layton said. “I mean, it was something that I decided a long time ago to do. I knew I had KPERS [Kansas Public Employees Retirement System] pension. There is not a whole lot of jobs anymore that you can do that with. I’m just glad I’m young and healthy and can enjoy those retirement years.”

The 1977 Ottawa High School graduate was hired by the Franklin County Treasurer’s Office tag department during her senior year of high school, she said. She joined the county full time upon her graduation and worked there for 4 1/2 years. That political and governmental experience helped her land the utility clerk job in Wellsville, she said, and her personality didn’t hurt either.

“I think maybe because I’m a people person,” Layton said. “Lots of times in this position, governmental rules and regulations are unpleasant, [and are] lots of times daunting to people coming in. I just felt like I could make it a little more pleasant experience ... good for both of us, good for me as the staff person and the person I’m waiting on, and the person I’m helping.”

It wasn’t just people who Layton helped. She also played a role in the development and building of the city hall building in Wellsville, 411 Main St. Before the building was erected in 1999, Layton worked out of a small structure in the same location and had to fight space issues, she said.

“[City Hall] was about five years of planning,” she said. “It was definitely very badly needed. We were in a small, two-room building. There was a fire department kind of garage right beside us. There was a driveway in between. They stored one fire truck in there and equipment.

“We were having difficulty with keeping files, just any place to put files. We couldn’t archive anything. We archived a lot of things in the fire station that was beside us and, because there wasn’t any temperature control or anything over there, they would deteriorate. So actually I started piling boxes up against the walls until they got the point.”

Aside from the new building, Layton also has seen a great change in the technology of the workplace through the years, she said.

“When I first started in ’84, water bills were done by hand ledgers and then typed and mailed in individually stuffed envelopes,” she said. “It just boggles me, but I think that also as times have gone by it’s like we have gotten busier. Technology has allowed us to kind of keep functioning because it frees up some of that and we have more people time. There is no way we could do hand bills right now. It is just amazing.”

What does it take to succeed as city clerk for so long?

“I think you have to be a people person, you have to be organized,” she said. “I think you have to be a little analytical and structured in your personality. A lot of being a city clerk is history. Mayors and councilmen come and go. You are the one that is constant. As city clerk in a small town like this, you are the constant that keeps everybody fresh as to what the past has been and the programs that have been sent. It is easily lost as councilmen are coming and going. You kind of have to keep the flow.

“It helps tremendously to be involved in your community,” she continued. “It helps to help with Wellsville Days activities. I remember serving the basketball team when they went to state, you know, we’d have dinners and [being involved in] the Hallowestas that we have downtown.”

All of the Layton’s duties now are in Tammy Jones’ hands.

Jones, who has worked as the police, court and assistant city clerk of Wellsville for the past seven years, took over Layton’s role as the full-time city clerk.

“[The change] is going to be seamless,” Layton said. “It will be like the same old same old around here. Tammy has a wonderful personality, to me. It will be great.”

During her run as city clerk, Layton has seen a lot of people come and go, she said, and she has made many lasting friendships.

“I’ve had some great working relationship and relationships that lasted into friendships after they’ve moved on,” she said. “I think I’ve always been able to make a good connection and somehow mesh with their personalities. I really have never had a hard time working with people.”

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