Lexington council clerk proud of role in preserving city's history

Lamb to step down July 31

bfortune@herald-leader.comMay 9, 2013 

Susan Lamb is Lexington's urban county council clerk, a position that dates to the late 1700s. In April, the Kentucky Municipal Clerks Association named Lamb clerk of the year.

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Some might point to the mayor's office as the hub of city government, but Susan Lamb says it's more like the council clerk's office.

"There is little that goes on in this government that the clerk's office doesn't have some participation in," said Lamb, who became council clerk in 2008.

Urban County Council does the business of the city by passing ordinances and resolutions, whether it's to approve a budget amendment, enter into a contract, hire an employee, buy a firetruck or sell a piece of land.

"Our job in this office is to keep track of every single ordinance and resolution. Those are the permanent records of the city," said Lamb, 48, who went to work in the council clerk's office 21 years ago.

In April, the Kentucky Municipal Clerks Association named Lamb the 2013 Municipal Clerk of the Year.

She described being council clerk as "such a fun job. Knowing we are preserving and maintaining the history of the city is very gratifying. It's the closest thing the city has to a city historian."

Council minutes, deeds, contracts and other documents for the city date back to 1787. The clerk's position is one of the two oldest in city government, Lamb said.

"The city had to have permanent records, and somebody had to be responsible for maintaining them. That was the council clerk," she said. The other oldest position is tax collector.

Lamb said the way her office maintains records is "no different than it was in the 1700s." She makes sure each ordinance and resolution shows up on the council docket, and is given two readings. Lamb is the one who reads aloud those interminably long lists of ordinances and resolutions at council meetings.

State statue requires ordinances to be published as legal notices in local newspapers. Archaic as it sounds in this high-tech world, Lamb's office clips and files each ordinance. The city's newspaper clipping books go back to 1930s.

"It's been that way forever and forever," she said. "It's done this way for the benefit of the public so they know the government's business."

Lamb is sometimes called on to search old documents for information about city business. A few years ago, she went back into records of the 1930s to find out when the city bought the land where the Charles Young Community Center was built.

Record searches are only done for city officials, not for the general public.

In the spirit of making government more transparent, Lamb spearheaded the effort a few years ago to video-stream council meetings and work sessions. Prior to that, the only way the public could see the meetings, if they weren't in council chambers, was on GTV-3 or by going to the Government Center to pick up a DVD copy of the meeting.

"Now people can watch meetings 24/7 on our Web page," she said.

Lamb is retiring July 31. "I have other areas of public service I want to go into," she said. She declined to be more specific. Lamb said she would announce her plans in January.

Beverly Fortune: (859) 231-3251. Twitter: @BFortune2010

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