Rocky Fork Enterprise

Isobel Sherwood

Retiring council clerk recalls candlelight meeting, mimeograph

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Isobel Sherwood has called her last roll for Gahanna City Council.

After 30 years of working for the city, she's retiring as council clerk effective Dec. 31.

Sherwood, a native of Scotland, moved to Gahanna in 1972 and began working for the city a decade later.

"I was a stay-at-home mom," she said. "The former clerk called the pastor at our church to ask if he knew of someone who wanted part-time work. I would cover minutes and do meetings."

In 1983, Sherwood filled a full-time receptionist position that included mail-clerk duties and Planning Commission clerk.

She helped establish Gahanna's landscape board in 1984 and began working in the council office a year later. She also continued working with the Planning Commission.

"In 1983, when I did receptionist and mail room, we had a mimeograph machine," she said. "There has been a little bit of change in 30 years."

Sherwood, 65, recalled packed meetings, when the former Big Bear was proposed at the Rocky Fork Plaza off Johnstown Road.

"It was changing from residential to commercial, and people said it was going to destroy the character of the area," she said. "It was a very contentious issue."

She also remembers many long meetings related to the development of the StoneRidge Plaza Shopping Center, including a planning meeting going past midnight.

"We've had meetings in candlelight because the power went out," she said. "That was interesting. That was pre-computer, so I tried to write shorthand in the dark."

She was involved with three charter-review commissions.

"That takes a lot of time when they're active," she said. "It's a very concentrated effort."

Sherwood has been active with the International Institute of Municipal Clerks Association, the governing body for certification of clerks. She has been chairwoman of the policy and procedure committee for the Ohio Municipal Clerk Association for seven years.

Sherwood has worked with more than 20 council members, too many Planning Commission members to count, two city attorneys and three mayors: Judie Peterson, Jim McGregor and Becky Stinchcomb.

"Isobel Sherwood has not only served the council office with distinction over her tenure, but has always been willing to assist the administration, as well," Stinchcomb said. "With her deep institutional knowledge and experience, she has assisted the administrative team in properly preparing legislation for council consideration, meeting City Council deadlines and being willing to offer her insights to help legislative processes work as smoothly as possible."

Stinchcomb said she considers Sherwood a good friend who will be missed greatly in City Hall.

"I was on council about four years when Isobel joined the council office staff," said Karen Angelou, a veteran council member. "She quickly became an expert in the multiple items handled by the council office."

Over the years, Angelou said, Sherwood furthered her expertise by attaining a title few clerks possess: master municipal clerk in 2003.

"Isobel embodies all the traits needed to handle the many duties of the council office," Angelou said. "She is quietly efficient, has incredible knowledgeable and institutional memory, and her exceptional work and work ethic enhance how the public views the city of Gahanna and City Hall. Most of all, she is a humble civil servant, and I cannot thank her enough for all she has done to make our jobs on council easier."

Veteran council member Tom Kneeland met Sherwood when she was responsible for and supported the Gahanna Planning Commission.

"On the commission, she literally memorized the city code due to the nature of supporting the commission and the work they did and still do," Kneeland said. "She always had important technical answers to important questions associated with city growth and development and saved the city many hours of research because of her knowledge of the code."

After Peg Cunningham retired as clerk of council, Sherwood was promoted to take the lead as council clerk and brought those years of service spent studying and interpreting the city code while supporting the Planning Commission and was able to transcend that knowledge to the council members she supported for her remaining years at the city.

"Her knowledge and desire to make the council office the very best it could be will be greatly missed," Kneeland said. "I feel besides losing a wealth of knowledge, we are also losing a close friend. I wish her well in the next chapter of her and her family's life."

Sherwood said she plans to spend the next six month relaxing and doing things she hasn't had time to do because of her work hours. In her retirement, she also looks forward to traveling with her husband, Walt, she said. They are parents to two adult children and grandparents to six grandchildren, ranging in age from 12 to 18.

Sherwood said she would miss being on the ground floor of development and where the city is moving.

"I've enjoyed dealing with the residents over the years," she said. "I feel that this office has always been an ear for those with complaints. If they come in frustrated because they haven't got answers they wanted, I hope they went away feeling better because we listened to them."

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