She came in 1971, starting in accounts
payable and payroll when Helen Zeter was city clerk. Before that,
she had been a bookkeeper at Mount Pulaski Farmers' Grain Elevator.
In the early 1980s, when Bob Madigan
became city clerk, an elected position, Nita was named deputy clerk
and bookkeeper. Then in 1987, Madigan ran for the Illinois Senate
and won, and Mayor Pete Andrews appointed Nita as city clerk. She
ran for the position in 1989 and defeated challenger Joan Ritter,
who later became mayor of Lincoln. She has run unopposed ever since.
In all, Nita has worked under six
mayors: Ed Malerich, Bill Wilson, Pete Andrews, John Guzzardo, Joan
Ritter and the current mayor, Beth Davis.
She's seen a lot of changes in those 32
years, but the biggest is the coming of the computer. That was in
1986-87 under Madigan. Although the system needs to be upgraded now,
Nita says the city has never had a time when its computers were
down; because they were not hooked up to the outside world, no one
could get into the system and mess it up, she points out.
The computer is very helpful in
retrieving information quickly, but it hasn't done what was once
predicted: eliminate paper.
"It just makes more paperwork. We buy
so much paper, it's hard to believe."
Because of the computer, Nita has been
able to do a better job of keeping old city records. By law the city
clerk is the keeper of all records, such as minutes, deeds,
ordinances and codes, and must be sure they are safe and can be
found when needed. Nita bought a scanner and now has most of the
city's records on disks, going well back into the late 1800s.
Records can be printed out if anyone wants to see them.
"We have to keep all the records, but
we don't have to keep on storing paper copies. "We've got records
nobody ever asks to see, but they're there."
The very earliest records, dating back
to 1865 when the city was incorporated, present a challenge even the
scanner can't meet.
"The first three books of city minutes
were written in script that's almost impossible to read now. We
can't scan these or the books would break apart, the pages are so
brittle," she says.
Mayor Beth Davis had set as one of her
goals preserving these earliest records, possibly getting them into
a climate-controlled vault so they will not disintegrate, according
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Lincoln area residents who like to save
time and postage by dropping bill payments into the boxes on
Kickapoo Street can thank Nita. She got the drop boxes installed in
1992 to make it more convenient to pay for city services, utilities,
medical care and some business services. The city purchased the
boxes, and companies that wanted them paid the cost.
Recently she set up a system so
residents can pay sewer bills by credit card at City Hall. The city
accepts Visa, MasterCard, Discovery and ATM cards during regular
business hours, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. She hopes the system
will help the city collect overdue sewer bills, which have been a
She has always been very complimentary
about her staff.
"Your staff can make you look good or
bad, and I have a very good staff," she says. Her three full-timers
were Melanie Riggs, deputy clerk, who will become city clerk when
she steps down, Louis Mauney and Brenda McCabe. Her part-time staff
member is Susan Gehlbach.
She is confident Riggs will do a very
good job as city clerk.
"This is not a job you can just step
into. I'm recommending her because she has been here and knows the
system. She has filled in for me at board meetings and firemen's
pension board meetings. And since the city is not going to hire a
replacement for me, and the staff will be cut by one, I'll be
available to help out if Melanie needs me.
"I'm looking forward, though, to
finally having time to do something when I want to do it. I've
always been involved with my grandchildren's activities, especially
sport events, and I'll continue to do that."
She has a son who lives in Lincoln, a
daughter who lives in Mount Zion, and three granddaughters. One is
at Western Illinois University and making the dean's list, one is at
Lincoln Community High School on the golf team, and one is at Mount
Zion High School playing soccer and basketball.
"I'm proud of all my granddaughters,"
She's also planning a trip to Arizona
very soon to see a brother who is ill.
"I think the
hardest part of this job is dealing with the public," she says.
"When people fail to make payments on time, somehow it's our fault.
But the public is who we work for."