Holmes Beach clerks maintain calm during city crises

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Holmes Beach city clerk Stacey Johnston trains assistant deputy clerk Nick Lewis at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive. Islander Photo: Terry O’Connor

Hundreds of Holmes Beach residents streamed into city hall during the hours leading up to Hurricane Irma’s island introduction.

Irma was expected to pass over Holmes Beach as a Category 2 storm with sustained winds of more than 75 mph and a destructive storm surge from the Gulf of Mexico.

Most residents wanted city-supplied sandbags to protect their homes and passes to return after the mandatory evacuation.

“They weren’t frantic. They were concerned,” said assistant deputy clerk Nick Lewis. “W could help them be prepared and inform them where they need to go. We issued a lot of sandbags.”

What does a city clerk do?
Maintains records of all official actions and is the city election official.
Authenticates city documents with the official seal.
Attests to city ordinances, resolutions, bonds, contracts and other instruments.
Administers city records and information management, including records, indexing, digitizing and archiving.
Supervises and trains employees in the office.
Issues business and rental tax receipts, T-end and sunrise dock rentals and temporary use permits.

Holmes Beach exhausted its supply of more than 2,000 sandbags during the prelude to Irma.

After the storm, residents peppered city hall with calls about power restoration and debris cleanup, said city clerk Stacey Johnston.

“A lot of people were scared and some of them were angry both before and after the storm,” Johnston said. “Our department helped put people more at ease.”

Another wave of phone calls was precipitated by a vaguely worded letter from the city to homeowners regarding Bert Harris claims, Johnston said.

“The phones went crazy,” Johnston said. “They still are.

We’re still getting phone calls on it.”

As city clerk, Johnston leads the nerve center at city hall, and after more than a decade on the job, she knows the next crisis is as inevitable as it is unpredictable.

So, she and her co-workers prepare.

Johnston and Lewis, hired in July, just returned from the Florida Association of City Clerks 45th fall academy held Oct. 15-19 at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota.

“It provides an excellent education and I have lifetime friends from the networking,” said Johnston, a Coffeyville, Kansas, native.

Johnston was city clerk for 10 of 18 years in Coffeyville City Hall, having started her career at age 18.

“I was the youngest city clerk in Kansas for a couple years,” she said with a laugh.

Johnston attended Coffeyville Community College and went on to continuing education at Kansas University and Wichita State University.

Lewis was participating in his first FACC fall academy while Johnston, the Southwest district director and FACC board member in 2016-17, has been attending since 1981.

“This academy is focused on leadership and how to be a person of influence to lead your staff,” said Johnston, who is certified as a master municipal clerk through the International Institute of Municipal Clerks.

Johnston hired Lewis after receiving more than 100 applications for an opening created by the transfer of Brenda Wynn to the building department.

“Nick stood out because he had experience in the clerk’s office and city government in the city of Madeira Beach,” Johnston said. “When we interviewed him, he related well to us.”

Lewis, who grew up in Seminole and went to St. Petersburg College, said he envisions a career as a city clerk.

The computer-savvy Lewis is helping Johnston upgrade city hall technology.

“I genuinely want to do this job and learn as much as I can from someone who knows as much as (Johnston).” he said. “It just felt like the right place.”

Johnston said Lewis is a good fit for her department and will help attain her No 1 goal.

“My goal for my department and myself is when someone comes in angry, upset or worried, they go out with a smile,” Johnston said.

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