Beloved Bay council clerk feted for 50 years of service

Bay Village City Council President Paul Koomar congratulates Clerk of Council Joan Kemper as part of a ceremony honoring her 50-year public service career. Looking on is Law Director Gary Ebert. Photo by Denny Wendell

Fifty years of public service is worthy of recognition, but when the milestone is achieved by someone as beloved as Joan Kemper, the entire community joins in the celebration.

Joan, the clerk of Bay Village City Council since 2001, was honored during the Jan. 26 council meeting, an evening that marked exactly 50 years since she began her career in public service. The council chambers were packed with friends, family, colleagues, elected officials and members of the public who came to show their appreciation for Joan’s years of dedication.

Her career began in 1965, as a police dispatcher for the city of Brooklyn, Ohio. During her years in Brooklyn, Joan served as secretary to Mayor John Coyne and other administration officials before being appointed chief clerk of the city’s recreation center, which she was instrumental in developing.

After retiring from the city in 1998, Joan began working in Bay Village in January 1999 as a receptionist and civil service clerk. She was appointed clerk of council in July 2001, also serving as secretary to boards and commissions.

When fellow council clerks Denise Rosenbaum of Westlake and Aimee Pientka of Strongsville realized Joan’s upcoming golden anniversary, both agreed that they needed to do something to recognize this amazing achievement. They knew that Joan wouldn’t want a big fuss, so they decided to make it a surprise.

Denise invited Joan’s friends, co-workers and anyone who knew her to send cards and photos for a scrapbook. For ease of compilation and to extend the deadline, the scrapbook idea was ditched in favor of a large keepsake box. The outpouring was so great, the box was filled to the brim.

With help from Bay Village Council President Paul Koomar; Joan’s friend, John Bundy; and her daughter, Jacquie Chakirelis, a recognition event was planned for the date of her 50th anniversary, which just happened to fall on a City Council meeting night, Jan. 26.

Keeping the celebration plans secret was no easy task – Joan is responsible for assembling the council agenda – so she was told to include a simple resolution acknowledging her years of service. But the night of the event, as the chambers filled to standing-room-only capacity, Joan knew she was in for more than a resolution. Coming around to the “other side” of the microphone, Joan asked her daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters to join her as the public congratulations began.

First up was Mayor Debbie Sutherland, who read a lengthy proclamation – the longest in her time as mayor. “In my 15 years of experience, I have never had a two-page proclamation, and that’s just a reflection of everything that you’ve done,” Mayor Sutherland remarked to Joan. “We didn’t want to cut anything out because you’ve done so much.”

The parade of well-wishers continued, including State Rep. Nan Baker, County Councilman Dave Greenspan, a representative from U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s office and messages from U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and local and state municipal clerks associations. Denise Rosenbaum and Aimee Pientka presented Joan with the keepsake box, filled with words of praise from near and far – a tribute to her warm, kind and endearing personality and the positive effect she has had on so many.

Councilman Dwight Clark summed up the feelings of all in the room, commending Joan for “her unbridled enthusiasm, her unparalleled professionalism, her dignity, her trust, her dependability [and] her honesty.”

Following the ceremony, which was punctuated by two extended standing ovations, Joan humbly acknowledged the recognition. “I don’t know how to thank everyone that came out on this cold night to think of me,” Joan said. “There are people from all the corners of my life here tonight. It means so much to me.”

After the excitement of the celebration subsided, Joan stated that she was “overwhelmed and grateful” about both the anniversary and the event. She expressed her “appreciation to Paul Koomar, Denise Rosenbaum, my daughter, Jacquie Chakirelis, and all the folks who worked so hard to make my evening so special.” She encouraged young people to become interested in making public service their career.

As reflected by Joan’s shining example, a humble and kind-hearted public servant can touch the lives of many.

Westlake Clerk of Council Denise Rosenbaum and Bay Village Councilman Paul Vincent contributed to this article.

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Volume 7, Issue 3, Posted 10:19 AM, 02.03.2015