Elaine Jenniges’ office in city hall has emptied out a lot this week as she prepared to retire.
During her last week, Jenniges has been transferring paperwork — and the knowledge to make sense of it — to others in the office who will take on some of her tasks.
“It’s already getting bare in here,” she said last week. “I’ve been the unofficial decorator at city hall, and took home a lot of the Christmas decorations.”
Originally from Marshall, Jenniges’ first job was as an accountant, then she moved to working in a drug task force office.
“I was the only one in the office. I couldn’t take being in an office all by myself, with no windows and no people,” she said.
Needing to be someplace with more human contact, and wanting a shorter commute from her then-Wabasso home, she picked Redwood Falls as her next place to work.
Having picked out the town, she then set out to find a job there.
Thirty-three years ago, when Jenniges started working for Redwood Falls, city hall had just three employees.
“In December of 1978, there was just the city administrator, the deputy clerk/treasurer, and me, the secretary/bookkeeper,” she said.
Today city hall employees 12 people (taking into account it now houses some PUC department staff, too.)
That was back in the original city hall on the corner of 4th and Washington Streets. What is now Jenniges’ office was a fire truck bay at the time.
As time went on, she was handed more and more responsibilities.
“Soon I was doing licensing and elections. There have been many changes since I started. That’s good; in the jobs I had before, I used to get bored,” she said.
What has been the biggest change in the 33 years since she started.
“We were still on typewriters then, and did a lot of handwriting,” she said. “We have to do much more reporting to the (state and federal) government now. There’s a lot more documentation, period.”
As deputy clerk, Jenniges has supervised all elections, making sure all the state and federal rules are followed to the inch — literally.
“One year one of the political parties had someone come out to look over everything and make sure we were following the rules,” Jenniges said.
Seeing a line of colored tape to keep everyone at least six feet away from the box where the votes got dropped off, the political operative said, “Well, that looks like about six feet.”
“Well, I know it was six feet, because I was on the floor with a tape measure!” said Jenniges.
“Once you get the administrative part of elections, election day itself is fun. I like working with the election judges,” she said.
Page 2 of 2 - Jenniges actively looks forward to missing out on this year’s presidential election, when things are busiest.
On the other hand, there was one part of change Jenniges could do without.
“It was frustrating dealing with the continual changes in government regulations. It’s tough keeping track of all that,” she said.
Deputy clerk also means when the city administrator is absent, Jenniges is responsible for keeping city hall running smoothly.
Jenniges’ preferred the human resources part of her duties, working with city employees on hiring, benefits, and the like.
What does she foresee for retirement?
“I”m a people person, and with retirement I’ll have more flexibility to do volunteer positions,” she said. As past president of the Friends of the Park, she has the volunteering thing down.
She also plans to spend much time in her basement workshop, playing with a fairly recent new hobby: stained glass.
“After working for 40 years, it’s going to be a totally different switch,” she said. “I’m excited, nervous, and sad. But I’ve really enjoyed the contacts I’ve made with people, and I’ve gotten a lot of emails from people saying they’re excited for me.”