By Lee Hurley
Photo by Neal Wagner
“If you contact City Hall and you get me, I’m going to do everything within my power to assist you, whether it’s regarding information within my department or not. If I don’t have the answer, I will find out the answer and get back to you.” Lisa Glasgow
“No job is perfect, but as the old saying goes, ‘Do what you’ll love, and you’ll never work another day in your life.’” J. Mark Frey
When it comes to describing Alabaster’s City Clerk and Deputy City C lerk, it’s hard to top the City’s description: “Serving as the local intelligence center, the Clerk’s Office has been referred to as ‘the hub of local government.’” Alabaster City Unlimited: cityofalabaster.com/181/City-Clerk
Going straight to the source we asked Mark Frey and Lisa Glasgow to help us better understand their roles in Alabaster’s municipal government as well as a few questions to get to know them a little better.
City Clerk J. Mark Frey grew up on Logan Martin Lake and graduated from Coosa Valley Academy in 1992. Prior to being appointed City Clerk in November 2018, Frey was a City Clerk in Columbiana for five years and prior to that he was a small business owner for 19 years. Running a chain of wireless stores helped him understand everything from managing a budget, inventory, and employees to dealing with taxes and customer service. As Frey says, “When you work for yourself—every customer that walks in the door is your boss.” Frey has been married to his wife Mandy for 21 years, and they have two boys, Nate and Carson. After Frey was appointed as Alabaster’s City Clerk in 2018, he purchased a home about a mile from City Hall.
Deputy City Clerk Lisa Glasgow grew up in Lakeview in Tuscaloosa County. She studied Business Administration and Office Management at Bessemer Technical. She has dealt with the public her entire career, as a cosmetologist, a member services representative at a bank, a temporary staffing recruiter, restaurant owner, and a communications dispatcher. This variety of experience helped prepare Glasgow to work for Alabaster helping others. She has been with the city for 20 years and in her current position as Deputy Clerk for seven.
If you are on an elevator going down three floors, how would you tell someone what a city clerk does?
MF: Well the running joke is, “My job is to keep the Mayor and Council from wearing orange!” We prefer our Mayor and Council to be “free range.”
LG: The city clerk serves as the liaison between the city council and the public, communicating with management, government officials, and staff.
Just reading about the duties of a city clerk sounds stressful!!
MF: Like any job out there—there are days that can be stressful, but that isn’t the norm. Honestly, I can’t wait to get here every day, and I feel like God put me in this position.
LG: There can be stressful moments with any position, but I would say the stress is minimal in this position.
It says somewhere that the Clerk’s office handles all claims and demands against the city. What does that mean?
MF: The Clerk’s office is really the hub of local government. I connect the elected officials with the citizens and coordinate much of the “business” of the City. I help coordinate with outside agencies and companies to make sure that the city is compliant with all state and federal laws.
LG: We are the connecting link for much of the City with the Council and Mayor.
Can you give us a few things that you do in your daily work?
MF: Every day is different, but typically I respond to public records requests, review agreements, prepare all documents for the Mayor and Council, advertise meetings and bid opportunities, and keep minutes of Council and Committee meetings.
LG: I process administrative invoices and purchases; order printed products for most departments such as business cards, letterhead, envelopes, forms, banners, etc.; assist departments with research; expedite ordinances to online Municode; and record necessary ordinances with the Shelby County Probate Office; create and keep hard copy and digital files; assist the public via telephone and in person; schedule meetings via digital calendar; order needed office supplies; assist with Teen Council event planning and preparation; assist and attend ribbon cuttings for new businesses; and assist City Council with events and information.
Who do you report to and communicate with the most each day?
MF: I’m appointed by the City Council. I report to Brian Binzer, our City Administrator and the Mayor. Most of my communications are with department heads and citizens of Alabaster.
LG: I report to Mark but communicate with all of the Administration, Finance Department, Planning & Zoning Administrator, and many other employees.
What records/rules/ordnances would you say most people contact you about?
MF: The Clerk’s Office receives Requests for Public Records almost daily. Most of these are to confirm if there are any outstanding permits or existing code violations associated with property that is being sold. All of the local laws (ordinances) are published on our website. We strive to be very transparent in everything that we do. All of our minutes and ordinances are published on our website within a day or two of the Council Meetings.
LG: I would say the city as a whole probably gets inquiries most on zoning. We have our City Code online, so many times it’s just explaining to someone where to find information and directing them to the proper department that can assist with zoning questions.
Are you involved in Alabaster elections? If so, how?
MF: The City Clerk is the Election Official for all municipal elections. This process is quite involved and is really accomplished with a tremendous amount of work by the Deputy Clerk and poll workers. Our next election is scheduled for 2025, and we will begin working to prepare for that project at least a year in advance.
LG: Yes, we actually recruit several Alabaster employees to assist with the election process. I am involved in securing the voting location, recruiting poll workers, and making sure they are trained, planning food for the election workers, making sure the poll workers are sworn in for the day, assist with setting up the voting locations, and on election day, I’m at polling places to help with whatever is needed. It takes many people to pull off an election, and everyone comes together to make this happen for the citizens of Alabaster.
When you prepare agendas for the City Council, how does that process work?
MF: Our Council meetings are held on the second and fourth Monday of each month with Council Work Sessions held on the first and third Thursday of each month. Typically, I will begin receiving items for the next meeting a day or two after the previous meeting. These items usually are provided by the Department Heads, and resolutions or ordinances must be prepared to describe the wishes of the Council. All agenda items are due in the Clerk’s office no later than noon on the Monday prior to the next City Council Work Session. Once the agenda items are received in the Clerk’s office, I determine if we need to attach a memo from the Finance Department or an opinion from the City Attorney. A resolution or ordinance is prepared and once adopted by the Council and signed by the Mayor, we publish all the documents and start getting ready for the next meeting.
LG: Mark prepares the agendas for the meetings. He has a timeline in which departments, City Administrator, and the City Attorney will get him information for the agenda. He then communicates with them to make sure he fully understands the item they are requesting for the agenda. We have meeting software now that aids tremendously in the entire process.
Can city clerk roles differ some from city to city?
MF: Every City Clerk has a little bit different role. Even if you have the same population and budget as another city, the roll of the clerk’s office can vary wildly. I served as the City Clerk and Treasurer for over five years in Columbiana before being appointed as the City Clerk for Alabaster. While in Columbiana, I was the City Clerk, Treasurer, Zoning Administrator, and HR Director. I wore many hats, and to be honest, was spread very thin. Alabaster, like many larger cities, has a Finance Department, Building and Zoning Department, and an HR Department. This gives me the ability to focus on being the most professional City Clerk that I can. Some small towns have only one person running all of City Hall. They are the glue that holds municipalities together, and they are unsung heroes.
LG: Yes, the Clerk’s role will differ from city to city. In some smaller towns/cities, the Clerk will wear multiple hats and have the role of Human Resources, Planning & Zoning, Revenue Clerk, Municipal Court Clerk, etc. We are very fortunate that we have numerous great Department Heads to fill these roles.
As custodian of the rules, ordinances, and resolutions of the council, does your office take minutes of all city council meetings? If so is done like a court stenographer? Recorded? Where is it all stored and how?
MF: Minutes are kept for every meeting of the City Council. These action items are recorded by the City Clerk and kept on file in the Clerk’s Office as a permanent record. I use a combination of hand-written notes and data entered on my iPad and agenda software to create the minutes. Everything is stored in the Minutes Book, an offsite copy on the server as well as on-line.
LG: Yes, minutes are taken and kept of all City meetings. All meetings are open to the public. We keep the minutes electronically and hard copy original as well, which are kept in Minutes Books on acid free paper in a fire-proof location in the city.
Are there less paper records than say a decade ago?
MF: Yes, there is significantly less paper today compared to years past. Thankfully our Mayor and Council allowed me to purchase agenda software 2021. This enables us to have department heads upload agenda items directly to the agenda.
LG: There are fewer paper records than a decade ago, but hard copy originals of minutes, contracts, agreements, ordinances, resolutions, deeds, easements, liens, etc. are kept.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
MF: I love working with our Mayor, Council, and all the departments that make up the City of Alabaster. I feel that we have the friendliest staff of any city that I have ever known. What we experience daily is precious and rare. Alabaster is a family.
LG: I enjoy the people I work with, helping others, promoting the city I love, and doing something different every day.
Do you see this role evolving in the next 10 to 20 years or is this the job?
MF: Over the years the role of the City Clerk has remained consistent and has been an essential part of every town and city. Technology and processes can change, but at the end of the day—we are here to serve the citizens, Mayor, and Council and make local government accessible to everyone.
What makes Alabaster stand out?
MF: Alabaster’s list of amenities is growing by the year, but really what makes Alabaster special is our people. We pull together, year after year, to make this a special place to raise a family and experience everything that central Alabama has to offer.
LG: I believe the Mayor, Council, and employees of the city help Alabaster stand out as a municipality. We are all a team working toward the same goals of making Alabaster a great place to work, live, shop, play sports, outdoor activities, attend school system, and the list goes on!
What do you do for fun?
MF: I enjoy spending time with my family, fishing, and attending Church of the Highlands.
LG: My husband and I enjoy camping, anywhere, anytime! I also enjoy gardening/yard work in my small yard. And I enjoy giving old furniture new life.
Last vacation you took?
MF: Last year I was able to take my boys on a “guys camping trip” up to Mount Cheaha. It was really enjoyable, and I look forward to more family camping trips in the near future!
LG: Camping at Lake Guntersville.
MF: The Bible and Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
LG: It’s hard to pick a favorite book, but the most recent is In a Heartbeat by Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy.
Favorite TV series?
MF: I don’t usually get into series, but I have enjoyed Jack Ryan in recent years.
Last live music you went to hear?
MF: Church of the Highlands Worship Team—Alabaster Campus on Sunday.
LG: Black Jacket Symphony.
What else could we add about your role?
MF: No job is perfect, but as the old saying goes, “Do what you’ll love, and you’ll never work another day in your life.”
LG: I guess just that if you contact City Hall and you get me, I’m going to do everything within my power to assist you, whether it’s regarding information within my department or not. If I don’t have the answer, I will find out the answer and get back to you.