OUT AND ABOUT: A little bit of everything. Bemidji City Clerk handles elections, council meetings and most things in between
BEMIDJI--There's no short answer to what responsibilities Kay Murphy has as Bemidji City Clerk, because in her position, every part of town is under her watch.
BEMIDJI-There's no short answer to what responsibilities Kay Murphy has as Bemidji City Clerk, because in her position, every part of town is under her watch.
In an average week, Murphy, who started working at the city in 1986 and became City Clerk in 2005, spends time preparing for the next Bemidji City Council Meeting, and stays in touch with multiple departments to do so.
"It includes getting the information from department heads that needs to go to the council for consideration," Murphy said. "Most weeks, the department staff, city manager and myself meet Tuesday mornings. They let me know what items they need on the agenda and we do a roundtable discussion which keeps everyone on point."
"Kay certainly is diligent in making sure we as department heads provide the information to her on a timely basis to make sure it goes where it needs to, whether that's for a meeting or to the public," Finance Director Ron Eischens said. "Working with finances, there's a lot of deadlines, and she stays on top of that, too. She's very good at reminding us when we need to get certain documents in."
Along with preparing the City Council meetings, Murphy also runs the city website, overseeing any updates to inform the public.
"In a way, I'm sort of the public relations person for the city, too," she said. "I do the press releases for the city on most subjects."
Likely the busiest part of her position, though, is when election season rolls around. For Murphy, it starts in the summer.
"I hire about 40 election judges in the summer and I coordinate with the county for training," Murphy said. "When it's the day before the election, I'm working to set up all of the polling places in town and the staff gives me a hand with that. I always want to make sure we're ready on election morning so the polls can open on time and everyone will be competent to do their job.
"During the day of the election, it's like I'm on roller skates," said Murphy. "I'm always going from one place to another, reacting to what's happening and getting more supplies to a polling place. I also have to keep watch outside to make sure there aren't people with signs too close."
The amount of time spent working on the election after the polls close has dropped in recent years, though, thanks to technology.
"These days, the election nights aren't too bad because of the new equipment we have. When I first started, we were counting ballots by hand, that could last well into the next morning. Election results at that time were slow," Murphy said. "Now we have the equipment that can count the ballots and the votes. We can usually get done about an hour or two hours after the polls close."
Following an election, Murphy said the next step is preparing those who won seats on the council for what's ahead.
"I work with the staff to provide what's basically a training workshop," Murphy said. "We schedule times where they can meet with the fire and police chiefs and tour the public works building. It allows them to get a sense of how many employees are out there working to make the city function."
Regardless if she's working with the council, the mayor, city departments or election judges, Murphy said her main priority is providing the best service to the people of Bemidji.
"My work is all about responding to needs and questions the community may have. In my position, I take a lot of calls and get a lot of emails, which contain concerns," Murphy said. "If people reach out to me, I'm not going to hand them off unless I know it's to the right person who has an answer. If I don't have the right answer, I will find it and get back to them.
"It's very important to me to provide a good service to our residents," Murphy said.