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Burlington city clerk credited with modernizing the office

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Kathleen Salisbury is retiring as Burlington's city clerk.

Kathleen Salisbury is retiring after 42 years with the city of Burlington, including 36 of them as city clerk.

She was the city’s first female clerk when first appointed to the job in the mid-1980s.

“I was interim city clerk for eight or nine months because the council wasn’t sure if they should go outside and hire a gentleman for the position,” Salisbury said.

During her more than four decades at city hall, she’s had a front-row seat to other firsts as well.

She said she was there for the city’s first female city manager, its first female mayor, and its first Black mayor.

She was also there when Burlington switched from a commission form of government to a city manager form of government.

She said that was a unique opportunity – to have worked in both forms of government.

“If I had to pick between commission form and city manager form of government I would choose the city manager form of government because you have a professional running the city on a daily basis and the council are all part-time,” Salisbury said.

Salisbury is being credited for modernizing the clerk’s office.

At the beginning of her career, she said, the city kept all its documents.

“We didn’t purge anything, we just kept buying new file cabinets. So when I became city clerk one of my goals was to streamline the office,” she said.

To do that, she created a new record retention schedule, selected software for digitizing records that is still used today, and implemented a computerized document retrieval system for city records from ordinances to contracts.

In 2006, Salisbury completed the requirements for the Master Municipal Clerk designation.

She is among only around 1,300 clerks in the country to do so.

Mayor Jon Billups said Salisbury leaves a legacy in an office she helped define for many years.

She will retire Dec. 31. 

Jane Carlson covers west central Illinois and southeast Iowa for Tri States Public Radio.