Temple Terrace City Clerk announces retirement
TEMPLE TERRACE -
The youngest of three children, Melissa “Lisa” Small spent her early childhood years in an Illinois farming community. She attended the first grade school in a one-room schoolhouse that housed students through the eighth grade.
When her family later moved to Tavares, where her father turned his woodworking hobby into a custom home-building profession, she pedaled her bike year after year to a school campus that incorporated students from the elementary level through 12th grade.
Although she enjoyed and did well in school Small, the small-town gal whose maiden name was Ehler, had no desire to pursue a college education.
“Like many of my girlfriends in that generation, we were more anxious to be married with families of our own than have careers,” she said.
As a result she married young and had two sons, Scott and Chris. But by the time the youngest turned 2 she found herself itching to enter the workforce.
“I just wanted something to do,” said Burns, who at the time had no inkling of what career path, if any, she might pave for herself.
She landed various jobs in real estate and law offices, which enabled her to hone her accounting and secretarial skills that included typing and taking shorthand. That, in turn, led to her being hired as town clerk/treasurer in Winter Park, Colo., and to a position in the town of Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla.
In 2000, Small came to Temple Terrace City Hall where she took on the role of deputy city clerk and four years later was named city clerk, the municipality’s custodian of official records. In that capacity she has served three mayors and 15 council members in a town of about 25,000 residents.
“It’s a job I love,” she said, despite the stress involved in its multitude of responsibilities she’s always taken very seriously, often lugging work home at night and showing up at the office before daybreak.
Small, who is certified as a master municipal clerk, has also held leadership positions, including president, with the Florida Association of City Clerks and has served on the board of directors of the International Institute of Municipal Clerks.
It hasn’t mattered that she’s been battling endometrial stromal cancer since 1981, a disease that for a while was in remission but resurfaced in 2010. She’s had numerous chemotherapy treatments since then that have stabilized but not cured the disease.
As co-workers say is her nature, Small has tried to keep a smile on her face and give it her all in a position that is not only demanding but vitally important to the well being of the city. She’s also done her best to well represent Temple Terrace at both the state and national levels.
She said even on her toughest days she’s tried to “cover up” the fatigue and discomfort she’s often dealt with as a result of cancer-fighting treatments, surgeries and powerful medications.
But keeping the fast and furious pace to stay on top of her game is no longer in the cards. At the insistence of her husband and the request of her doctor, Small, 62, recently announced her retirement. Her last day at city hall is May 15.
“It concerns me that I have to leave before I planned to but I do not know how to relax,” she said.
But in the days ahead Small hopes to learn how.
She plans to spend more quality time with her family, continue her family’s genealogical pursuits, do some scrapbooking from photos and other memorabilia of her travels, and embark on a trip to Paris with her husband.
Fellow employee Jackie Diamond, the finance office’s accounting supervisor, has interacted on many occasions with Small.
“She’s always friendly and helpful and very professional no matter how tired she is or what was going on with her health,” Diamond said. “I’ll miss her.”
Sobeida LeBlanc, the city’s legislative secretary, has worked alongside Small in the city clerk’s office for seven years.
“We are all in shock after hearing Lisa’s unexpected retirement announcement,” said LeBlanc, who described her boss as easy going, generous, considerate and understanding.
She wrote in a statement, which she said also represented the opinion of deputy city clerk Jeannie Barlow, saying that Small’s knowledge of the city, the work she performed, and her work ethic were extraordinary.
“We are all very happy for her as she deserves to enjoy this new chapter in her life,” LeBlanc said.
A retirement party for Small is planned from 5 to 7 p.m. May 15 at the Omar K. Lightfoot Recreation Center, 10910 N. 56th St.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at JoyceCMcKenzie@gmail.com.