City clerk steps down after 32 years

After 32 years as Elkhart city clerk, Sue Beadle, shown here speaking with City Councilman-elect Arvis Dawson, is retiring. Friends, family and current and former colleagues celebrated with her on Wednesday at Elkhart City Hall.

ELKHART — The longest-serving elected official at Elkhart City Hall is stepping down at the end of this month.

Sue Beadle, after 32 years as Elkhart city clerk, is calling it a day on Dec. 31.

“I’m grateful for all the years that I’ve had with the city. It’s been a really good job. I’ve had the good fortune to have a good staff and I’ve enjoyed it, but it’s time for somebody else to take over,” Beadle said at her retirement party in the Common Council Chambers on Wednesday.

Being city clerk is in Beadle’s blood, as her mother, Dixie Haas, has also had the job. But following in her mother’s footsteps was not something Beadle had considered until she was encouraged to run by Haas’ successor.

“So I thought, ‘Well, why not. I’ll give it a try.’ And that was in 1987 and I’ve been here ever since,” Beadle said.

About 90 percent of her work is to manage the records of the City Court and the money collected there. The rest, Beadle said, is to maintain the City Council records.

Judge Charles Grodnik, who has worked with Beadle since being elected in 1991, said Beadle has been a wonderful clerk.

“She is a great manager of people,” Grodnik said. “I’ll miss her.”

He praised her for being meticulous, counting to the penny, when dealing with the court’s money.

“She’s been a great friend of me, she’s got great political instincts, was a great manager of people and really did a great job for Elkhart,” Grodnik said.

And Beadle has had a good time doing it.

“The good parts of the job are when you can help somebody who has a problem with their driver’s license and when you help people who don’t understand ordinances and you can help them with that,” she said.

That might be something like the city’s noise ordinance, which she said a lot of people didn’t understand.

“So when you can explain what it is, they’re more likely to abide by it because the fines are kind of stiff,” she said.

Having been elected eight times (four times with opposition), Beadle says that what it takes to win the voters’ confidence is to do the job well. But being up for election is not the most enjoyable part of the job, she said.

“It’s tense when you don’t know whether you’re going to have a job,” she said. “Thankfully it’s pretty much a non-controversial position. We don’t make policy.”

She said that the job has remained the same in many ways over the last three decades. But some changes have happened. When Beadle started the job, there were no computer systems, and going through archives was much more difficult than today.

“We had thousands of cards, and every time somebody would call with a question about their ticket we’d have to go through these card catalogs by name and look for the ticket number and then go find the ticket where it was filed,” she said. “And now, we just look it up on a computer and all the information is right in front of us.”

Going through the transition from paper to PC is what Beadle is most proud of when she thinks back on her career because it helped the city serve its residents better.

What she did not mention is that she received one of the State of Indiana’s most prestigious awards, the Sagamore of the Wabash. Beadle said she has the rare distinction of receiving the award twice, first from Gov. Otis Bowen and then from Gov. Robert D. Orr.

But the governors are not alone in celebrating Beadle’s accomplishments. Dozens of people, including friends, family and current and former colleagues, showed up on Wednesday to celebrate her. Mayor Tim Neese, who was first elected to the City Council the same year as Beadle first won, awarded her the Key to the City.

“A Key to the City is the highest award that any mayor can present,” Neese said. “And I am pleased to present Sue Beadle with the Key to the City of Elkhart.”

Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter at @ReadRasmus

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