Civics Today: What’s up with the City Recorder(s) 

With nearly two decades of experience between them, Melissa Bisset and Dawn Wilson, Keizer’s city recorders, bring not only a wealth of knowledge to their positions, but a work ethic that can only come when one is passionate about their work. 

In this case, that passion revolves around a love for the city in which they reside and ensuring it is able to function properly. 

With Bisset as the lead recorder and Wilson as deputy recorder, the dynamic duo help manage and maintain the many meetings and piles of paperwork necessary to any functioning government. 

Starting her government career in Bernie, Tex, Bisset came in with little knowledge about local government as well as the position she was undertaking, city recording. 

Once working, Bisset stated that she quickly became fascinated with the job . 

She stated how it helped her not only become better acquainted with how her city operated but provided an enjoyable and stable job. 

Wilson, who described municipal work as in her blood, also has prior experience in working for local government, though it was predominantly within Keizer’s finance department where she started more than seven years ago. 

She made the move to city recorder to, as she stated, “Look for more challenging work.” 

Having completed all she could in the finance department, Wilson made the jump to her new position last year. 

According to the City of Keizer’s website, “The City Recorder provides administrative support to the City Council and serves as Election Officer, Risk Manager, and Volunteer Coordinator.” 

After a discussion with Keizer’s city recorders, however, it became apparent how much more extensive the position is than what the city’s website states. 

The first rule, according to Bisset and Wilson, is that a typical day as a city recorder is anything but typical. 

The day starts with checking emails and other communication from the previous day and that morning, according to Wilson. 

Oftentimes, these emails contain important questions from both city staff as well as the public which requires a city recorder to not only answer but gather and send related information should it be needed. 

Communicating with department leads is another crucial job that requires the city recorder with Wilson giving an example regarding the city’s meeting minutes and ensuring city staff and council see them so they can provide agreement or note errors needing change. 

Currently, the city has nine active committees, all of which require attention for both facilitating meetings, gathering data for the meeting packets, putting out correct information to the community as well as ensuring what happens at these meetings is correct and transparent to the public. 

City recorders are tasked with fulfilling public records requests, creating and managing the city’s social media, creating public notices as well as managing the calendar of the city as well as committee and council calendars. 

The most important task, however, deals with maintaining accurate records of the meetings themselves. 

While nearly all city meetings are recorded and made available at under meeting materials, a typed copy is also created of what occurred at the meeting. 

Whether typed or taped, meeting materials are made available publicly. 

The recorders are also responsible for maintaining the city’s website by ensuring accurate information is added and the website is made easier for the public to navigate it. 

In an effort to aid with the day-to-day effort it takes to process, gather and order the hundreds of documents they deal with daily, the city recorders, Wilson specifically, have been working with an agenda management system, according to Bisset. 

The agenda system, Civic Clerk, has been an ongoing project since June 2023, went live in September, and the system so far has helped streamline the process of ensuring the correct information is put online for the public about city meetings. 

This project goes hand-in-hand with the city recorder’s other project of creating a city-wide subscription service for interested citizens so they can have city meetings sent directly to their email. 

Despite being a position that many know about and even more people see, understanding the importance of a city recorder should not be understated. 

According to Wilson, this importance stems from a variety of notions around accurate record-keeping such as records requests, noting that it is possible for the city to be fined if a request is not granted fast enough. 

“We protect the records for the public, we retain and store them properly for the public and we help them get access to those records once we find something,” Wilson said. 

Bisset also described one critical function of her position that many may not be aware of working as the city’s only election officer. 

This requires a number of additional tasks such as putting out important information about elections, collecting information about and for those running as well as facilitating the election process here in Keizer, according to Bisset. 

When asked what qualities make a good recorder, both noted that it is important to be organized. 

Maintaining records, meetings, calendars and the numerous other duties requires those in the position of recorder to be organized as the effects of chaotic record-keeping can be detrimental. 

Wilson noted one way to get better at organization is to practice what and how you write when covering a meeting. 

Transcription or as Wilson called it, summarization, requires focus as it is an encapsulation of the most important information in the meeting as it is said and by whom it is said. 

In addition, they described perhaps the most important quality, a passion for serving the public. 

“You’re there for the people and you’re compassionate, that’s what you need. You have to be helpful,” Wilson stated. 

While both acknowledged learning a great deal in their respective positions, each recorder noted something different about the most interesting thing learned about the city while working. 

For Bisset, it comes down to the comparative youth Keizer boasts against other cities. One result of this youth is a lack of codification of city ordinances, which unfortunately can make the job of recorder more difficult. 

Per a city council work session dealing with the city’s upcoming 2024 goals, the city intends to codify nearly 40 years worth of ordinances making tracking them much easier. 

For Wilson, the most interesting Keizer fact she learned is in regards to the Thomas Keizur maquette that now resides on the Keizer Heritage Museum as well as the monumental community effort behind the annual Miracle of Lights event held in the city. 

Wilson also spoke of how impressive it is to see a community come together and raise the amount of food and donations they gathered–more than 20,000 pounds of canned and non-perishable food items as well as over $40,000, resulting in at least 148,000 meals being provided to the community. 

In regards to what each found the most satisfying about working for the city in their capacity, both agreed, the people. 

“It’s the people, the community and the employees. They’re all great people even when someone has a bad day. Everybody adds a piece of something to the day because there’s talent within everyone,” Wilson said. 

Contact Quinn Stoddard
[email protected] or 503-390-105

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