Posted December 14, 2016
As a young girl growing up in the small town of Windom, Minnesota, Lu Ann Hecht participated in “Office Day” in high school, spending time in the city clerk’s office.
“I could do that!,” she recently recalled telling herself. Now, after working for almost 30 years for River Falls as city clerk, Hecht is retiring.
Hecht said she will miss many friends and colleagues, but she is ready to move on to the next phase of her life.
“I am going to enjoy ‘not’ working and spending time with my five children, grandkids, and maybe take some trips,” said Hecht. “This has been a big part of my life and I’ve met some great people. I’m going to miss all the great friendships and people I’ve met, some of whom are license holders and business owners.”
Hecht, 62, began working for the city in 1987 as an account clerk in the utilities department. In 1989, she became deputy clerk. Because of some restructuring in city government, Hecht said, she ended up performing the full clerk’s job and also served as deputy treasurer for a time.
Hecht officially became the River Falls city clerk on Jan. 1, 2007.
Growing up Hecht always wanted to be a teacher and, as the city clerk, kind of was, she said.
“People would come and ask me lots of questions — some of them crazy — but I always enjoyed helping people,” said Hecht. “It was a great day when you could make someone feel good.”
As city clerk, her main duties were as custodian of official city records, ordinances, and council proceedings. Her other duties were administering oaths and affirmations, supervision of elections and voter registration. She also worked with the city assessor, licenses, and dealt with open records requests.
“There is a lot put on you as city clerk, but you figure it out,” said Hecht. “We do records management. Any records request runs through our office. I worked closely with the tax levy and I worked with the city assessor to figure out taxes. The most important part of my job is being able to help people.”
Hecht commented that if she could turn back time, she would do it all over again.
Her coworkers past and present commented on her humor and excellent work ethic.
“We will miss her witty sense of humor,” said Hecht’s supervisor, Julie Bergstrom, assistant city administrator. “She is one of the funniest people I know.”
Former Mayor Don Richards agreed.
“She was just an excellent employee. I addition to being such a nice person, she had a good sense of humor,” said Richards, who was mayor from 2004-2012. “If you asked her to get something done, it never took her very long before it was finished. I couldn’t say enough good things about her.”
Hecht left a lasting impression on many people’s lives she touched.
“I was really sad to hear she was retiring,” said Richards, who also is retired. He is still involved in many volunteer activities around the River Falls area and understands that life can be very full even when a person is retired. He said he wishes Hecht the best.
Some of the most difficult times on the job were during elections, but Hecht — a mother of five children, including a set of triplets — understands pressure. She said having triplets helped her manage her job better and taught her to not sweat the small stuff and pick her battles.
“In 2004, when we were in the old building (before completion of the new city hall), there wasn’t enough room and the lines were very long. Sometimes we were there until midnight but we got it done,” she said.
In addition to her duties as city clerk, she also became licensed through the International Institute of Municipal Clerks (IIMC).
“That helped me meet other clerks and be part of the Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association,” she said.
The IIMC is a professional, nonprofit association that promotes continuing education and certification, plus provides networking solutions, services and benefits to its members worldwide.
According to the IIMC’s website, city clerks have become a hub — the direct link between the citizens of their community and their government. The clerk is the historian of the community. The entire recorded history of the city and its people is in his or her care.
“She has been the source of all knowledge — everyone goes to Lu for information,” Bergstrom said. “It is going to be tough without her.”
Hecht has been training her successor, Jennifer Zeiler, for the last couple of months. Zeiler comes with 17 years of experience used to be the city clerk in Grantsburg, Wisconsin.
“The city is in good hands,” said Hecht.
Hecht’s last day will be Dec. 16.
“I will come back from time to time to have lunch, but I won’t be working,” Hecht said with a smile on her face.