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Woodside town clerk retires after 27 years in Town Hall

 

At the very least, for Woodside Town Clerk Janet Koelsch, she no longer faces hours in front of a keyboard, cassette recorder at her side, to fashion official minutes for Town Council meetings. She is retiring on Dec. 18 after 27 years in Town Hall, with 18 of those years as town clerk, a keeper of the town's records.

Her signature as town clerk first appears on minutes from a council meeting in September 1997, when she was promoted from clerk of the Planning Commission by then-town-manager Susan George. "I thought it would really be exciting and rewarding to be the town clerk in my own town," Ms. Koelsch said.

Ms. Koelsch has composed proclamations and signed checks. In addition to preparing meeting minutes, she has been a resource on election law, new legislation, record retrieval, and implementing the Brown Act, a state law that oversees transparency in government. She attended yearly conferences to keep up to date.

After some 430 council meetings since her first meeting in 1997, Ms. Koelsch has officiated for the last time.

She was "instrumental in all that we do at Town Hall and making sure that we do it right," said Town Manager Kevin Bryant. She has been, he added, "the heart, soul, and conscience of the Town Hall staff."

If there are signs of meticulous attention to the preparation of documents for Woodside council meetings, and to capturing a meeting's tone and substance for the record, it is due to the efforts of Ms. Koelsch.

"I can usually see the urgency or the passion that (people) put in their comments," she said in an interview in her office.

She nodded toward a set of file cabinets in her office. Inside are copies of minutes, ordinances and resolutions since 1956, she said. Town records are also electronically archived. "It was costly at the time, but it's paid for itself many times over," she said.

Ms. George, reached via email, said Ms. Koelsch was the obvious choice when the clerk's position opened up in 1997. "As a resident of the Town and long-time Town employee, her knowledge about the Town and the Townspeople was unsurpassed and her integrity, work ethic, and people skills were superlative. I didn't need to ponder the decision," she said.

At the time, and for 38 years, Ms. Koelsch lived in Woodside with her husband. The couple had three children, one of whom was born in Puerto Rico, where they lived for three years, Ms. Koelsch said. They moved to San Jose in 2008.

"The traffic just gets worse and worse and worse," she said of her commute. "I love this job. It's really great, (but) it's time for me to retire. ... It's going to be fun. I can go to the library on Wednesday at noon time, that kind of stuff."

She was a founder of the Woodside Parent Nursery School, past president of the school PTA, and a board member of the Woodside Elementary School foundation and of the National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy.

Ms. Koelsch is part of an extended family of 16, with eight grandchildren on the Peninsula. When a significant birthday comes along, they all make their way to some interesting place -- Havana on one occasion, Cape Cod on another, she said -- and celebrate.

When people come in Town Hall clearly frustrated with government, Ms. Koelsch has a simple approach. "You really just can't take any of that personally," she said.

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