Temecula city clerk retires to assist daughter’s family

Temecula City Clerk Susan Jones, who logged more than 600 council meetings during her 24-year career, is moving to Florida to help a daughter with a potentially difficult birth.

“It’s an adventure,” Jones said as her city tenure was winding down. “That’s how we’re looking at it.”

Jones, 55, said she had planned to work for Temecula at least two more years, but the need to help her daughter, whose husband is in the military, was a higher priority.

“Life sometimes has a way of changing, and you go where you need to go,” said Jones, who was the 12th city employee to be hired after Temecula incorporated in December 1989. Only one other current city employee, Kevin Harrington, a public works maintenance supervisor, was hired before Jones.

Harrington was the 10th employee hired by Temecula after incorporation. Some other longtime city employees were hired months after Jones and Harrington.

“I’ve just loved being here,” Jones said in an interview. “I loved the people and I’ve loved what I do. I think that makes it easier.”

City officials are currently interviewing candidates to replace Jones. But it is unlikely that any Temecula clerk will match her longevity or achievements.

Jones had about a year of government experience on her resume, but was working for Delta Airlines in marketing when she was hired by Temecula in April 1990.

“I really love public service,” she said. “I just feel comfortable in that setting.”

She was initially hired by Temecula as an administrative assistant. In keeping with the city’s staffing plan, she became the deputy city clerk when permanent assignments were made.

June Greek became Temecula’s first city clerk, and Jones replaced her when Greek retired and moved from Temecula in June 1998.

She has worked for six city managers, and the council in a surprise move on Dec. 10 declared it “Susan Jones Day” in Temecula.

Jones conducted or played a role in 11 city elections, and assisted 57 council candidates who won seats or lost their races. Two of Temecula’s original council members – Karel Lindemans and Pat Birdsall – have died during Jones’ tenure. Another 11 council members have served over the years, including the five that now hold their elected posts.

Jones was a fixture at Temecula’s three City Hall buildings, and she had a hand in preparing 2,000 meeting minutes for council, redevelopment and community services sessions.

She also fielded more than 8,000 public record requests during her tenure and supervised the changeover to computerized storage of city documents.

She served as a vice president and president of the City Clerks Association of California.

Some of Jones’ recent and previous managers praised her quiet demeanor and unflappable approach. She kept her smile intact despite intense resident scrutiny over the city’s handling of elections and hot-button ballot measures and development issues. She was sued at least once over a referendum-related issue.

“It’s stressful when you’re under fire and you can’t really respond (to criticism),” she said.

Her longest council meeting, which occurred in January 2011, included an eight-hour public hearing over a contentious plan to build a 24,943-square-foot mosque along Nicolas Road.

The council unanimously approved the project at about 3:30 a.m. the day after the meeting started.

“We all joked about it,” Jones recalled. “We said: ‘Let’s just get breakfast and go to work.’”

And even though another clerk will eventually fill Jones’ seat at the council dais, she won’t be forgotten anytime soon, said several of her colleagues.

Shawn Nelson, who retired as city manager about two years ago after working for Temecula for more than two decades, described Jones as “extremely competent and professional.”

Nelson attributed Jones’ upbeat attitude to her mastery of the job.

“Susan is one of those people who truly loves the city with all her heart,” Nelson said in a recent phone interview. “She just has a genuine passion for the city.”

Besides her family and the city, Jones was also active with the Mormon church. She played the organ at services and was widely known for singing at church, city and community functions.

“I love music,” she said. “It feeds my soul.”

After her retirement, Jones said she and her husband planned to hurriedly find a place to live in Florida, pack their furniture and belongings and then move there. Then they will await the birth of their sixth grandchild. Two of their children have families and a third is in college, she said.

Jones said her husband, a contractor, will likely seek work after they settle in. Jones said she is not certain whether she will work again or if they will remain in Florida after the baby is born.

“It’s hard to plan that far ahead,” she said.

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