Cottrell will run for Nevada City Clerk
Longtime Nevada City Councilman Steve Cottrell will run for city clerk, he said Tuesday.
Several months ago, Cottrell said he would not seek a fifth term on the council. He also thinks the office of city clerk should be an appointed position, not elected, and he wants voters to consider that at the municipal election in 2010, he said.
“There was a time when the elective office of City Clerk was relevant,” Cottrell said. “But with the recent reorganization at City Hall, the position can now be filled by staff. … All city clerk financial duties have already been absorbed by our finance director, and the county clerk handles the bulk of election work.”
Cottrell, who teaches and lectures on local history, noted that from 1851 until 1926, the position of City Clerk was held by a member of the Town Board of Trustees (now the city council). Aaron Sargent served as Nevada City Clerk while a Town Trustee in the 1850s, before becoming a U.S. senator.
“Each May, trustees selected a clerk, and it worked fine for the first 75 years,” Cottrell said. “Then in 1926, citizens voted to make the office elective, and George Calanan became our first elected city clerk. But Nevada City 2008 is a very different community than Nevada City 1926.”
If elected, Cottrell said he would organize a committee of interested citizens and focus on acquiring grants to digitize all public records in custody of the city clerk, including minute books and ledgers that date to the 1850s. He also would encourage a ballot measure for 2010 that would give the City Council authority to assign all remaining city clerk duties to staff.
“The only essential duties left for the elected city clerk to perform in Nevada City are to maintain minute books, maintain ordinances and maintain custody of the city seal. All statutory financial duties have already been assigned to the finance director, and the county clerk works with City Hall on elections, so there’s really no need to hold a city clerk election every four years.”
Barely 30% of California cities still elect their city clerks, and most communities have given appointive authority to either the city council or city manager, Cottrell said. Such decisions, however, are ultimately left to the voters, he added.
“The 2006 Grand Jury suggested that voters be given a chance to decide if they want an elected or appointed City Clerk,” he said, “and I believe they deserve that opportunity.”
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