After 15 years and 653 meetings, Palo Alto's popular City Clerk Donna Grider bid her final adieu on Monday night in an emotional ceremony that ended with her reminding the council that they still have to vote on a resolution in her honor.
It was a fitting conclusion for the city's longest serving council-appointed officer and one of the few department heads who routinely wins praises from every side and faction in the city's polarizing political debate. Grider, who announced last month that she will be retiring after Election Day and moving back to her native Illinois, used her rare moment in the spotlight to say it was a "privilege" to serve Palo Alto residents.
"It'll be a memory with me for the rest of my life and it's a great way to end a career," said a tearful Grider after Councilwoman Gail Price read a resolution in her honor.
The resolution lauded her for her leading role in administering eight council elections and 17 ballot measures, "providing neutral and fair assistance to all candidates and committees" and for being known for her "neutral 'Switzerland' approach to the election process."
After the resolution was read, each council member personally thanked Grider, with Marc Berman praising her "patience," Greg Scharff citing her "warmth" and Mayor Nancy Shepherd lauding her willingness to take her office "to the next level." Bob Moss, a frequent critic of council actions, also had words of heavy praise for Grider, particularly her use of online technology to release public information a factor that her predecessors didn't have to worry about.
"She was a real asset to the City of Palo Alto," Moss said. "We've been really blessed to have her service and I'm sorry we're losing her."
City Manager James Keene, who was hired in 2008 and will now be the longest-serving council-appointed officer, also praised Grider for her long and productive tenure.
"In any other city, the 653 meetings is equivalent to 1,500 or 2,000 meetings, given the length of hours so it's especially great."
After the departing clerk received a standing ovation, Shepherd was preparing to move on to the next item of the agenda when Grider interceded.
"You do have to pass the resolution," Grider said, before the council did so unanimously.