Cline, Jamieson settling in to new municipal positions

·6 min read

NORTH PERTH – Lindsay Cline and Sarah Jamieson are North Perth’s newest clerk and deputy clerk, respectively. The previous employees holding those positions had a long tenure in the roles. Pat Berfelz, the previous clerk, served the municipality for 43 years before retiring this February. Former Deputy Clerk Danette Beare got her start in the Township of Wallace in 1997, continuing to serve after amalgamation. She announced her retirement in October of last year.

Cline and Jamieson, when asked if they are planning to stick around for that long, exchanged nervous looks before laughing.

“You can’t predict the future,” Jamieson said. “But I’m happy working for North Perth. I think it’s great to work for the place that I’m born and raised and continue to live.”

It hasn’t quite been 43 years, but Cline and Jamieson are settling into the roles well. They both described the hiring process as a whirlwind.

“I worked for the City of Guelph previously,” Cline said. “There’s a big difference between a city like Guelph and a smaller, more rural municipality. I’ve just been spending the last couple of weeks getting up to speed on everything. I still feel like I’m getting up to speed on things. And, you know, taking over from someone who worked here for so long, it kind of feels like big shoes to fill.

“It was getting the experience of working somewhere that’s completely different from where I was – working in a more rural, smaller municipality. Also, seeing that the person in this role previously was here for so long, that sends a good message. That led me to apply for the job here.”

Cline comes into the role with a varied background. She attended the University of Waterloo for planning and did a post-grad in HR at Conestoga College. Through her degree at Waterloo, she got some experience in municipal politics in co-op positions. While she changed tracks after university to go into HR, she always imagined returning to local government:

“A position came up within the City of Guelph in the clerk’s office. That kind of fit with the planning side of things that I did. That got my foot in the door and from then I worked my way into more of a coordinator role supporting council. Learning from my boss – the clerk and the deputy clerk – I saw what they did and learned from them and wanted to find myself in a clerk’s position, too. So now here I am.”

Jamieson, meanwhile, had a more direct path to her new position.

“I started in North Perth fairly fresh out of college,” she said. “I went to school for business administration and then was trying to find something that sort of aligned with that. I started here about six months after I finished college at the front desk. At the front desk, you kind of see a little bit of every department so that sort of opened my eyes to the possibilities of what I could do in North Perth. I was there for about two years and moved down to the fire hall for about eight years, and then just recently moved back up here on maternity leave coverage. Then, to get into the clerk’s department, I filled in a few times for the deputy clerk. It kind of opened my eyes to the idea of the clerk’s department. I learned as much as I could from our previous deputy clerk and now here we are.”

The clerk’s office is often the first or second point of contact for the public and they are often a touchstone for councillors as well. Being a quasi-expert on everything from bylaws to drainage can be intimidating, they say, but its also part and parcel for the job – and the municipality as a whole. You see everything.

“You get calls from residents about things like loose dogs, permits and taxes, and everything,” Cline said. “I’m trying to learn my job, and then learn what everyone else does, too. I can redirect calls and inquiries, but it’s a smaller environment here. Everyone’s willing to help out. Even if it’s not your job, specifically – everyone’s been really helpful. It’s a great way to learn a municipality and what every department does, being a clerk, because you do touch everything and have your hand in everything.

“You’re always continuously learning new things. My previous job didn’t touch drains at all. I didn’t know what a quarter revision was. I had no idea. So now, it’s a whole new aspect of my job. It’s a way to just keep learning.”

Jamieson says that the learning aspect of the job was never more pronounced than during the pandemic:

“It’s been interesting for sure. Being here from the start of the lockdown until now, trying to pivot to how we can do things more efficiently, electronically, and virtually was definitely a learning curve. Two years into it, we have it pretty much figured out at this point.”

The municipal election

Cline and Jamieson highlighted the importance of this coming municipal election. “The council is a direct result of people voting and participating in that process. The more people come out, the better,” Cline said.

The next election takes place after the provincial election in the summer. The municipal election is scheduled for Oct. 24.

“We will be having some advanced voting days,” Cline said. “Those (dates) aren’t set in stone yet, but once they are all the information will be on our website. We have a mayor, deputy mayor, eight councillors, three wards – also the school board election as well.

“We just want to promote the election to get people to come out. We’re doing in-person voting this year. Council just passed a bylaw to do in-person voting with vote tabulators, which was what the municipality has done for many elections… (We are) making sure people check to see if they’re on the voters list. There’s a website called voterlookup.ca they can use. I know sometimes there’s a little bit of confusion between provincial and municipal elections. We are having a provincial election coming up in June, so sometimes people can get confused. If people go to that website, that’s specifically for the municipal voters list.”

During the March 21 North Perth council meeting, there was some regret expressed for not having online voting. Councillor Lee Anne Andriessen pointed out that last election only had 24-31 per cent voter turnout.

Cline says that while that is regrettable, it was ultimately right for this election. That isn’t to say that they won’t be looking into online voting next election:

“We’ll definitely want to look at all other types of voting, whether it’s internet, mail and phone – just to see what options we can implement that might help improve voter turnout,” she said. “It’s hard to say whether there’s a correlation between (online voting and voter turnout). But I think having more options is better.

“You have to take so many different things into consideration – like the integrity of the vote security. That’s why we felt like we didn’t necessarily have the time this year to explore those different options. But for future elections, we’ll definitely look at those.”

Connor Luczka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting