Town Clerk Wins Statewide Clerk Of The Year Award

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Throughout the day, elected officials, town staff and passers-by stop in for a quick chat with Town Clerk Silvia Smith.

The open door of Smith's office along Town Hall's main artery and her broad smile welcomes Payson insiders.

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Payson Town Clerk Silvia Smith received the Clerk of the Year award from the Arizona Municipal Clerks Association. She received the honor over clerks in 90 cities and towns, statewide.

She averts her eyes from the black, flat-panel computer screen to the visitor and lifts her fingers off the keyboard to return the salutation.

But not everyone comes in to chat. Some mean business. After all, Smith's office is the hub of Town Hall and her work affects everyone there.

"From one hour to the next it's never the same," Smith said. "My day never even starts the same to tell you the truth."

Her patience, her knowledge and her ability to keep working through any kind of chaos, won Smith the Clerk of the Year award from the Arizona Municipal Clerks Association. She received the award on June 29, at the organization's annual conference. She received the honor over clerks in 90 cities and towns, statewide.

"It's a tremendous honor and well deserved," said Town Manager Fred Carpenter. "She is an excellent town clerk in every respect."

Smith and her husband, Don, came to Payson from the Valley in 1983. Avid campers, the Smiths discovered the town as they passed through on Highway 260 toward the cooler mountain climes of the east.

They purchased land in Oxbow Estates for their retirement, but quickly convinced themselves to change their life plans and move to the area early.

When she arrived in Payson, Smith took the position of town clerk, which is, by Title 9 of the Arizona Revised Statutes requires all incorporated towns and cities to employ a town clerk -- one of the few positions mandated by state law.

With the job comes responsibility.

Smith oversees all town elections, town council support, agenda writing and staff direction.

Her efforts created Payson's online meeting portal, Granicus.

"People wanted to be more informed," Smith said. "People wanted to know things faster."

In 2003, she implemented the first townwide mail-in ballot election.

To improve accessibility for seniors and the disabled, and provide flexibility for the younger, working generation, Smith set out to overhaul Payson's voting culture.

"That was a big challenge," Smith said. "We wanted to increase voter turnout. We were getting so many early-voter requests, and it was harder to find polling places and poll workers."

Smith's investment paid off: The general election in May tendered a record 62 percent voter turnout.

She's a master of town business and thrives on the kind of work -- budgets, agendas, laws and paperwork -- that would glaze the eyes of private-sector civilians.

Councilor Mike Vogel seeks her advice for his duties on the dais. "She's fantastic," he said. "I ask questions and she tells me how to do it. It's really nice to walk in and get consistent answers."

Operating a staff of four, adhering to town rules and procedures, and keeping abreast of the ever-changing nuances of state law requires a commitment to continuing education and certification.

Her plaque-covered wall proves it.

She attended the Arizona Municipal Clerks' Institute and Academy where she absorbed a comprehensive curriculum in public administration, management, technical skills and personal development.

After four years of training, she earned a Master Municipal Clerk designation in 2005. Smith is also a certified municipal clerk; a certified public manager and a certified municipal elections official -- standings that require years of additional education.

To cool down from her hectic work schedule, Smith, her husband and their 8 year old, Donnie, love to camp, attend car races and watch NASCAR races on television.

"In the winter, we like to go to (Lake) Roosevelt," she said. "Then go up north and enjoy the mountains in the summer. We have quads and like to kick back."

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