City clerk job is tough, rewarding
FAIRMONT — Fairmont’s city clerk for the past six years, Patty Monsen, took center stage at “Saturday With the City” at the Sylvania Park shelter house. The one-hour informal listening sessions are held occasionally during the year to spotlight various city departments and give citizens the opportunity to ask questions of city leadership and elected officials.
Monsen is a lifelong Fairmont resident, leaving the community only to attend college and earn an associate’s degree as a paralegal. She has been a Fairmont city employee for 30 years, working first as a legal assistant for the city attorney’s office. She also has worked with the engineering department, finance department and building and zoning before becoming city clerk.
Few people have knowledge of the entirety of Monsen’s responsibilities, but as she explains her job, you quickly realize the magnitude of her workload and the necessity for perfection.
She serves as secretary for the Fairmont City Council, publishes legal notices of meetings, prepares agendas for all council meetings, keeps minutes of those meetings and records all actions by the council. She maintains all the city’s central records and personnel files, prepares and publishes legal notices for all ordinances and resolutions, procures deeds and documents for any city real estate transactions and also serves as the city authority for all data requests.
“We are living in a time where we get tons of data requests,” Monsen said. “I recently got one, and actually, I thought it was a joke. They wanted all our records for the last two years on all the dog poop bags that the city purchased.”
If someone needs to purchase a city license, that responsibility falls on Monsen’s shoulders. She issues licenses for liquor, cigarettes, taxis, refuse haulers, peddlers, special events, golf carts and ATVs, and archery and goose hunting on farm lands within the city limits.
And in her spare time, she answers phones, waits on customers and shares her knowledge with her co-workers.
“Since I’ve been there so long, I’m usually the person people come to when they have a question,” she said.
One of Monsen’s biggest responsibilities is administering all elections for city, county, state and federal elections.
“It’s not a small feat. I compare getting ready for an election with planning a wedding. It’s a lot of work,” she said.
She trains election judges, a group vital to the smooth operation and success of any election, and administers absentee voting at all the nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the city.
The day prior to the election, she and two street department employees move all required voting material to the Knights of Columbus Hall which serves as the city’s polling site. The day after election, everything is moved back.
“On election day, I start at 5:30 a.m., and I don’t get home until 11 p.m.,” she said.
Monsen praised and thanked the Knights of Columbus for their generosity.
“I don’t think they get the credit they deserve,” she said. “They give us that hall. They donate it for our citizens, and that saves us a lot of money.”
In 2020, in addition to the primary and general elections, Minnesota residents also will vote in a presidential primary election which replaces the traditional party caucuses. Monsen said most people have not heard of the new election created because of the huge turnout for the 2016 caucuses and the complaints that the venues were too small to allow everyone to have their voices heard.
The presidential primary election will offer ballots for the four recognized parties in the state: Democratic Farmer-Labor, Republican, Grass Roots-Legalize Cannabis party and Legal Marijuana Now.
“When you come to vote that day, you have to declare what ballot you want,” Monsen said. “Once you do that, that becomes public information, and people can get that information with a data requests.”
Monsen is dedicated to the city and its citizens.
“I feel very blessed, and I thank God for the opportunity to serve the citizens of Fairmont,” she said.
One citizen attending the Saturday morning session offered her appreciation for Monsen and her work.
“Patty does a fantastic job, and she doesn’t get the credit she deserves,” the woman said.
Fairmont citizens raised inquiries about various other topics during the gathering, and city staff offered available information. Topics included:
— Proposed community center — Community center advocates have been in discussion with the YMCA to evaluate a potential partnership which would help determine program costs. One resident suggested the issue of building a community center should be put on the ballot.
— Lake Avenue street improvement project set for 2020 — A recent open house collected suggestions and ideas for the project which runs from Fourth Street to Downtown Plaza, and an online open house to be held on the city’s website in the very near future will gather additional feedback on the design concepts. Some changes being considered are mini roundabouts and the redesign of the First Street/Main Street/Lake Avenue intersection. After input from the online open house is considered, the preferred options will be presented the the city council in June.
— The building at Fourth Street and Downtown Plaza — The old Iron Grill building, which sustained a collapsed back side and roof this winter, and two adjacent houses were donated to the city two years ago, but the property has been tied up in probate. City staff negotiated a deal with the estate’s attorney, and preparations are being made to demolish the structure. Future plans for the site’s usage are undecided.
— ATVs on city streets — Side-by-side 4-wheelers are licensed by the state, just like a car, and they are legal to run on the street. ATVs are allowed on the streets from November to March, during ice fishing season, and only to go from a home or park out onto the lake. These ATVs require a $25 permit available at City Hall after providing proof of insurance.
— Sunday liquor — The Fairmont Municipal Liquor Store originally planned a six-month trial run starting in July of 2017 after the Minnesota State Legislature approved Sunday liquor sales. Customer traffic during this time was been higher than anticipated, and Sunday hours are now permanent. The liquor store is staffed by two employees during its Sunday hours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and profits have covered the cost of being open the additional hours.