On Wednesday evenings in September, Snoqualmie City Clerk Jodi Warren can be found teaching citizens what it takes to run a municipality.
Being on the city council is no easy task and Warren’s students learn that firsthand. From her class, Warren chooses a mock council and randomly divides the remaining group into pro and con camps.
The mock council listens to arguments about a pressing issue like school impact fees or firework ordinances. At the end of the night, like it or not, the mock council has to vote.
Warren believes strongly in promoting open and accountable government. By creating programs like the Citizens Academy, Warrens works to unveil the mystery of city government. She has received the highest possible designation for a municipal clerk in Washington state. Her personal climb has not been without difficulty.
Yet, “there is absolutely nothing I would change,” Warren said.
Warren was alarmed seven years ago after a survey revealed just how little Snoqualmie residents understood about city government. Warren believed that citizens should understand their local government. Thus, she created a hands-on, interactive workshop called the Citizens Academy.
Over seven Wednesday nights from 6 to 8:30 p.m. participants learn about history, forms of government, what the city can and can’t do, finance, city planning, the building department, public works, park police, fire, and public management, to name a few.
She wants the community to understand what happens inside the city offices.
“Transparency in government is something near and dear to me,” said Warren. “I take it very seriously.”
Speaking about the mock council meeting Warren said, “It’s very different when you are sitting on the other side of the table having to make a decision.”
Over the past seven years, Warren has walked 117 citizens through the comprehensive course. Many graduates of the program serve on city boards and commissions or as volunteer fire fighters and EMTs. Warren considers citizen education an important aspect of her job.
In 2010 Warren earned the highest designation a city clerk can receive, Master Municipal Clerk. She is also one of 10 clerks in the state to receive the designation of certified public records official. In order to receive these designations, Warren demonstrated both education and experience. The laws regarding public records in Washington state are constantly changing. In order to receive certification, Warren had to demonstrate a current and deep understanding of the Public Records Act and other relevant legislation.
The office of city clerk is one of the oldest in public service. City clerk and chief law enforcement officer are the only positions mandated by law. Warren’s job is to prepare city council minutes and meetings, file public records, codify official documents, facilitate county elections, and provide confidential support to Mayor Matthew Larson.
To the right of Warren’s desk hangs a bulletin board covered with pictures of her family. She proudly points to a picture of her husband, Jerry. They have been married for 23 years. Another photo shows her grandson, Braedon, pretending to be Superman and her granddaughter, Avery Joy, smelling a flower with her tongue.
“They are my reason for everything,” Warren said. “I spend every free minute I have with them.”
Warren believes that parent or a grandparent’s job is to support and love their children regardless of the circumstances. Without the support of her parents, Warren does not know what she would have done.
After getting divorced in 1986, Warren found herself with three children to take care of, a minimum wage job, a household to run and no idea how she was going to do it all. Her parents helped watch her children while she worked and went to school fulltime.
“They taught me values,” Warren said. She describes her parents as self made, hardworking individuals who look for solutions outside of the box.
In 1987 she got her paralegal degree from Seattle University. In 1996 she was hired as deputy clerk treasurer and in 1998 she was appointed city clerk by Mayor Randall Fletcher. She has been city clerk of Snoqualmie for over 16 years.
“Even when things look down and you are frustrated,” said Warren. “If you find what you love to do and you work hard towards a goal, you will find your place.”