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New Clerk of Council settles into position

When Heather Barbour wrote the minutes for Oxford City Council’s Nov. 16 meeting, she recorded her own appointment to the Clerk of Council position.

Barbour will follow in the footsteps of Mary Ann Eaton, Oxford’s Clerk for the past 17 years. 

Prior to applying for the city position, Barbour worked for Miami University at King Library in building facilities management for eight years. Her role included organizing door schedules and card access, managing security cameras and keeping track of day-to-day operations.

“If there was a flood, or even a homeless person maybe living at the library … anything weird, I was usually the first person that saw it and then sent it where it needed to go,” Barbour said.

Her focus on the library's daily operations prepared her for her new position with the city. Much of the Clerk’s job centers around scheduling and writing legislation, an area which mirrors Barbour’s work writing policies and signage for King Library.

Just like her position with the library, Barbour’s new role with the city covers a unique set of responsibilities that require her to manage her time carefully.

“[I have to] be mindful of taking time off and definitely sticking to the schedule,” Barbour said. “It’s something I would’ve done anyway, coming from a place where I didn't have a backup either.”

Though this is her first step into public administration, Barbour has lived near Oxford since childhood. She grew up in Indiana and went to Union County-College Corner Joint School District, an interstate school.

“I’ve always done more on the Ohio side,” Barbour said. “Half of the school is on one side of the state line, and half is on the other, which is kind of cool. [Ohio has] always been where I do most everyday things – banking, grocery shopping, that sort of thing.”

When Barbour applied for the Clerk of Council position, she didn’t know what to expect.

“I applied and thought, ‘Wow, that'd be really nice, but I'm sure a lot of other people have just done that too,’” Barbour said. “I was very flattered to get a phone interview.”

Former Mayor Mike Smith, who was part of the interview team, said Barbour stood out against the other candidates. The Clerk’s desk is situated at the entrance to the City Manager’s Office, a location that requires someone personable and even-tempered.

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“[The Clerk] invariably becomes the public face of the city in a lot of ways,” Smith said. “Not only do you get to answer phone calls, but you get to see walk-ins, and we felt that Heather had the right personality to deal with that, because sometimes people walk in angry, and you have to know how to work with that.”

Since being appointed to the position, Barbour has faced a steep learning curve in her first foray into local government.

From adding  “whereas”es and “therefore”s in legislation to cutting Council conversations down to the important parts for meeting minutes, the language of her new position differs greatly from normal communication.

“There's always a learning curve when you're doing something you haven't done, but it's not terrible,” Barbour said. “It's just something of, ‘Oh yeah, I shouldn't say it that way, I should reword that.’”

Though Barbour has been attending meetings and writing minutes for a month, her first meeting without Eaton’s guidance was Dec. 7. The date coincided with the first meeting for newly appointed Councilors Amber Franklin and Alex French.

Now, Barbour said she’s settling into her new role.

“I have everything organized thus far,” Barbour said, “but it's kind of a hurry up and wait situation.”