Also works as mayor’s assistant
By Anthony Caciopo
Regional News Editor
The new deputy city clerk in Palos Heights has been on the job less than a month, but she’s already finding the position—actually, two of them—a great fit.
“This is a really nice community,” said Margaret Carey from her office at City Hall last week. “Everyone (in government and administration) is very respectful, genuinely nice. I would say “What you see is really what’s happening.’”
Carey began working in Palos Heights Jan. 28 as assistant to Mayor Bob Straz and was appointed deputy city clerk Feb. 5. She now holds both positions, filling the shoes of former longtime assistant to the mayor/deputy city clerk Pat Shepard, who retired Jan. 11 after more than 15 years of service.
“I have a list of ‘Pat questions,’” Carey said with a laugh, “but that list keeps getting smaller and smaller.”
Shepard assisted with the transition following her retirement, working with Carey her entire first week and then a portion of Carey’s second week.
“She’s always available by phone, text, whatever,” said Carey. “She’s the nicest woman.”
As the Palos Heights deputy city clerk, Carey supports Thomas Kantas, the city clerk.
“We’re the official keeper of the records,” she said. “Our number one job is to preserve the records.
“Our elected city clerk attends the city council meetings including executive sessions, takes the minutes, ordinances and resolutions,” Carey said. “The clerk keeps the corporate seal, keeps full record of the meetings proceedings,” among other duties.
“What I do is everything after that. Any ordinances or resolutions that were passed, I prepare them, get them signed and sealed; any agreements, get them signed and sent off to whomever they need to go.
“A big part of the deputy clerk’s job is preparing the agendas and all the agenda materials, getting them posted in a timely manner, on the website, to the elected officials,” Carey said.
The deputy clerk also exercises the full power and duties of the city clerk in the case of his or her absence or unavailability.
In addition to city council meetings that require agendas, the City of Palos Heights also has multiple committees that require agendas and record-keeping.
Everything has to be in compliance with the Illinois Open Meetings Act, she said. Carey is also the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) officer for the city.
“I’ve seen some communities that don’t keep up on all their minutes (and don’t) keep everything posted on the website,” Carey said, “but where I came from they were very strict about that and they seem to be strict here, as well. That’s the way it should be.”
Skills that she says are essential to the job include the ability to be extremely organized and time-conscious, with deadlines a frequent fact of life.
“You have to know how to write,” she said. “You’re writing for the mayor, you’re writing for the city, updating the website, creating a flyer or anything.”
In-depth knowledge of Microsoft Word, Excel and Power Point are essential to the positions.
Before hiring on with Palos Heights, Carey worked 11 years for the City of Countryside. She originally served as assistant to the police chief for seven years before her promotion to the position of deputy city clerk in 2014.
Palos Heights has a population of approximately 12,000 residents. Countryside has about half that.
However, Carey pointed out the very heavy business presence in Countryside compared to Palos Heights.
“A lot of my focus (there) was with the business community,” she said. “Here, it’s more focused on the residents.”
And as Mayor Straz’s assistant, she has plenty of opportunity to interact with the local citizenry.
“I like that it’s small government,” she said. “We’re very approachable.”
Carey says the mayor (whose position is part-time) comes in every morning, and there’s work for her to do.
“I help him schedule his meetings and events, respond to any inquiries from the public,” she said. “We get letters all the time so I help him respond to that, saving him time. I’ll draft something and we’ll work on it together.”
And of course, some things require more action.
“There’s a lot to cover,” she said.
Carey has her roots in southwest suburban communities, where she still lives, another reason she feels Palos Heights is a great fit.
“Even though Countryside is not that far away, it’s a west suburb,” Carey said. “It’s not a south/southwest suburb. I know about more of what’s going on here. That was the number one draw.”
Carey grew up in Berwyn, moved to Arlington Heights when she got married and eventually headed south again. She finished her associate’s degree at Moraine Valley Community College and earned a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Lewis University. She’s nearing completion of a master’s degree in the same discipline, also at Lewis.
“I come from a large Irish family,” Carey said. “My dad is from Ireland (County Kerry) and he’s number five out of 20 kids.”
He resides locally and is planning a trip to Ireland this summer and he wants her to accompany him, she said.
Carey, one of five children, has two of her own: Liam, 21 and Fiona, 16.
The new deputy city clerk flew almost solo preparing the city council’s agenda this past Tuesday evening, with just a little bit of guidance from her predecessor, Pat Shepard.
“Don’t be afraid to call here for something that you would have called Pat for,” Carey said with a smile.
Palos Heights City Hall is located at 7607 W. College Drive. The general number for city government and services is (708) 361-1800. The improved city website can be accesses at www.palosheights.org.