Pam Greeninger looks back on her career as the Capitola city clerk
“My husband and I will always joke about these things,” says Capitola City Clerk Pam Greeninger. “I’ll kid around that my second home is City Hall, and he’ll say ‘No it’s not, it’s your first home—you’re there more than you are home!’ It’s probably true, but I suppose now I’ll be home more than I am at City Hall.”
Greeninger has been in Capitola’s service for 32 years, and served as the city’s clerk since 1984. With a “great deal of thought and mixed emotions,” she recently decided to retire at the end of this year.
“How will the city survive in your absence?” exclaimed Anthony J. “Bud” Carney, AICP of California Land Planning in an email response to Greeninger’s retirement announcement. And it’s a fair question to ask.
As clerk, Greeninger has an extensive list of responsibilities, including: handling election paperwork and processes for the city; attending and recording all city council and Redevelopment Agency meetings; maintaining the city council minutes; receiving claims against the city; publishing public notices; and the list goes on. And then there is all of the personal one-on-one work Greeninger does with people that come into her office.
“I really enjoy working with candidates and people who are running for office,” she says. “Most of the people that run have never been involved in that kind of thing and have no clue what is going on. I feel like I am in a position where I can make a difference by what I do and what I say, helping people get through all the red tape of government and just be there.”
Between her various duties, Greeninger has also had her hand in changing what the clerk position is for the city of Capitola, not only by her work ethic but also through her activism. The city clerk position is currently an appointed one, but it wouldn’t have been without Greeninger’s efforts. In 1994, Greeninger campaigned to change the elected position to the way it is now. “I felt very strongly that in a small town like Capitola, where you don’t have a lot of people running to choose from, [the city] could end up with more of a figure head city clerk,” says Greeninger about her motivation to advocate the measure. “We actually tried to put the measure on the ballot three times and people were telling me, ‘Pam you don’t want to go out there campaigning for this because you are in that position.’ I saw it from both sides, though, and I knew that it was important that the city manager or the city council be able to appoint the clerk to ensure that you had someone qualified.” Greeninger cites the measure’s success as one of her proudest achievements in all the time she has spent with the city.
Looking back on her three decades with the city, Greeninger recalls how Capitola has changed since she first took her position. She has seen the ups: “[There was] a lot of commercial development along 41st Avenue, which of course was really advantageous to the city in that our sales tax revenue is really a very large part of our budget. It was a really exciting time for the city.” And she has certainly seen the downs: “In the last few years, there has been so much going on with the economic downturn, so we’re finding that we don’t have as many projects coming in and things like that. I guess everything fluctuates from year to year.”
One of the biggest shifts in the clerk position over the years has been due to nothing other than the rise of new technologies. Laughing, Greeninger recounts, “In my office, when I was first elected in 1984, I would shorthand notes and type all of my minutes on a typewriter. And so you know, when I was transferring these things, you didn’t want to make a lot of mistakes because it’s not like a computer where you can just start all over and go back and re-write. It’s a lot different now. I think it’s hard for younger generations to understand what we went through back then, but it was a different world.”
Greeninger may be leaving her post as city clerk, but she says her heart remains with Capitola. She is looking forward to finally having time to enjoy the city she worked so hard for all these years. “I’m finally going to be able to hang out on the beach, or take walks around town,” she says. “I’ll still be involved of course, but not to the degree that I am now. I have mentioned that I am only a phone call away, so hopefully I’ll be popping into city hall and helping out if I can.”
Although she foresees more inevitable highs and lows for the seaside city, she looks brightly toward its future. “I love Capitola, I love it the way it is,” she says. “I think a lot of people do, but I [also] think there are a lot of opportunities for making it better. I admire all of the people that we have on our city council who really give it a lot of thought.” She is optimistic for the future of Capitola’s growth with the planning of a new hotel and the yearly celebrations such as the Begonia Festival and the Art and Wine Festival that always bring in plenty of business and fun.
But as always, it comes back to the people she’s worked with: Greeninger stresses how those people made being the city clerk the wonderful ride it was. “Over the years I knew a lot of great people who have helped me do my job and I guess I’m just really going to miss that part of it,” she says.
The sentiments are not one-sided. “Pam personifies the utmost in professionalism as a city clerk,” says Councilmember Sam Storey. “By diligently noticing the city’s meetings, taking very good minutes, and communicating to the public, she is the public’s liaison to local government. She has kept the city on course for the past 30 years and will be very much missed.”
Dec. 30 will be Greeninger’s last day as city clerk. “I did not regret a day of work,” she says. “I went in and I was always happy to be there. I did it because I felt like I was making a difference in my community and it gave me a sense of purpose and I loved it. I still love it! I just really love my job.”