Wright reflects on time as city clerk

Council members line up to honor Michelle Wright on Tuesday, who plans to retire on Friday. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

Council members line up to honor Michelle Wright on Tuesday, who plans to retire on Friday. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — Fulfilling the duty as city clerk is not a task to be taken lightly, according to Michelle Wright.

Going beyond what was expected of her, Wright dedicated 15 years to both the City of Manistee and her job as city clerk, making long-lasting relationships along the way.

When it was time to step-up, Wright went full-force into the role; but now, she is taking on a new role as she celebrates her retirement.

Wright held her last day on the job at City Hall on Friday. Heather Pefley, former deputy clerk, was sworn in on Tuesday to fill her position.

“I just felt it was time to step back and focus my attention on family and other interests, let someone else bring new ideas, energy and talents to the position,” Wright said.

Wright worked with the city for 28 years.

Previously, she worked alongside former city clerk and treasurer Ken Oleniczak, and former deputy clerks Jerry Skiera and Clara Krukowski, who helped her grow in many ways.

“(Oleniczak) helped to ‘teach me the ropes’ of elections, city accounting, budgeting and many other functions of the Clerk and Treasurer’s office,” she said. “I made it a priority to attend as many classes that would help further my knowledge in both the clerk and treasurer’s fields.”

Throughout the years, she surpassed many milestones in her career.

In 2011 and 2017, Wright was nominated and placed on the ballot for the Michigan Municipal Clerks Association Clerk of the Year award.

“Although I didn’t win either year, it was quite the honor with only five names listed on the ballot to represent cities throughout Michigan,” she said.

Of her many accomplishments, she also received international certification as a Master Municipal Clerk from the International Institute of Municipal Clerks.

“I received their highest level of certification that can be earned using a combination of education and experience,” Wright said.

Wright also obtained certification through the Association of Public Treasurers – United States and Canada – as a certified public finance administrator.

Many aspects of the job changed while she sat in her position.

Along with the ever-changing voting laws, she said voter registration software altered from an in-house system to the statewide Qualified Voter File (QVF).

“The voting laws in Michigan are continuously changing, keeping up with those changes is very time consuming,” Wright said. “(QVF) helped ensure that voters were not registered in more than one place by comparing names, birth dates, signatures and driver license numbers.”

In 2017, officials used new machines for the Nov. 7 general election in Manistee, in which city voters could feed their typical paper ballot into new tabulators — enhancing accuracy and security.

“Voting equipment dramatically changed from using mechanical lever machines to computers, tabulators and voter assist terminals,” she said. “The equipment used in the past November election is the third style of equipment I learned to operate and maintain in the past 28 years.”

Many city officials worked closely with Wright during her time at City Hall.

Ed Bradford, chief financial officer, said one positive attribute about Wright is her customer service skills, which always exceeded expectations.

“It has been my distinct pleasure to have worked with Michelle over the last 15 years,” said Bradford. “She is unflappable in the face of pressure and deadlines, and always maintains an even-tempered and pleasant disposition.

“Michelle is a great asset to the city and its residents, and will be greatly missed by her co-workers. I wish her all the best in her well-deserved retirement.”

Denise Blakeslee, Manistee planning and zoning director, said Wright served the city through endless professionalism and dedication, for all of her years of service.

“It has been my pleasure to have worked with Michelle,” said Blakeslee. “She is a wonderful co-worker and person. I am so happy to call her my friend and I will miss her dearly. I only wish her and Tim all the best as they begin this next chapter in her life.”

As she moves forward on her new journey in life, Wright said she plans to spend more personal time with her family, making the best of each day.

“I am looking forward to being able to spend more time traveling,” she said. “Also, spending time with our family and grandchildren, volunteering wherever I choose, doing mission work for our church and enjoying the great outdoors.”

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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