Two Juneau officials received high awards recently for their dedication to city government.
Laurie Sica, City and Borough of Juneau city clerk, and Mayor Bruce Botelho have been recognized for having a passion for their jobs, though both are a bit bashful in sharing their recognition.
Sica was given a colorful award of Alaska Clerk of the Year by the Alaska Association of Municipal Clerks. The actual award has lapel pins from cities and boroughs across the state surrounding the certificate. Sica was given the honor at the Alaska Municipal League conference.
“It is awarded each year for outstanding contributions to the municipal clerk profession,” Sica said. “In the areas of professionalism, growth through education, leadership, community involvement and election.”
The award was first given in 2000 to Mona Drexler, clerk for the Fairbanks North Star Borough, who gave Sica the award.
Sica was unaware she’d be the one receiving the award this year and was surprised to hear the announcement.
“I’m very thankful to my coworkers for submitting my name and I’m very honored that my peers chose me,” she said. “... It was just a nice surprise and I was very honored. Considering the caliber of clerks in the state I was very humbled to receive that award. There are a lot of really good clerks in the state.”
Sica’s been actively involved in the Association and helping to give clerks statewide access to resources and educational opportunities — part of the group’s mission.
She’s been an officer of the Association and served on several committees through the years.
“There’s not like a clerk school you go to,” Sica said. “A lot of people land in the job from different walks of life. The Alaska Association of Municipal Clerks is really focused on training clerks to know all the details of the job that’s required in Alaska.”
This year Sica taught a webinar course on managing essential records — documents clerks need to have in emergencies and how to identify and protect them.
She has also served on the scholarship committee and successfully secured Denali Training Commission funding.
“Other things I do in town, I’m the president of the Litter Free, Inc., a non-profit,” she said. “We do the annual city clean up in May. We do the youth litter patrol throughout the summer. I’m on the board of the Glory Hole.”
Sica started in the field in about 1981 when she started answering mail for the Skagway Chamber of Commerce. She ended up working for the Skagway Clerk’s Office in 1987 and became assistant clerk from ‘87-’94. In 1994, she moved to Juneau and worked as a code enforcement officer (starting in 1996) before the clerk position came open in 2000.
“I really enjoy working for the public,” she said. “I like working in a non-partisan position. I like helping make connections between the residents and the city staff and the assembly members. I like helping people to know what’s going on in town and getting the information out. I really enjoy working with the CBJ staff, it’s a really professional staff and I learn something new all the time. There’s a lot of interesting people who walk through the halls of CBJ. You get to meet a lot of people.”
But the thing that Sica enjoys the most is the historical aspect of the job.
“I like to go in the vault and check out the old documents and find out something interesting that happened in history,” she said. “In a way I enjoy taking the minutes because I know they’re history in the making.”
Botelho was given what’s considered the most prestigious award by the AML — the Vic Fischer award. This was apparently a double honor for both the recipient and the award’s namesake.
Botelho considers Fischer an enigma.
“Vic Fischer is one of my great heroes,” Botelho said. “So I think, for me, the thing that I most appreciated was the act of Vic actually presenting me the award. Obviously, I’m honored that my colleagues would recognize me this way. Vic Fischer clearly is one of the key founding fathers of Alaska for his role as a delegate to the state constitution convention.”
Kathie Wasserman, director of AML, said the award is the top of the three given annually.
“It tends to be for someone who has done things over and beyond for their community and the entire state as well,” she said.
Wasserman said that definitely fits Botelho.
“Not only has he served as the mayor in two different stretches for the CBJ he also served as attorney general under two different governors,” Wasserman said. “Vic Fischer was totally twitterpated that Bruce received it. He takes a lot of pride in the award. He thought Bruce was one of the most well-deserving people. Bruce does a lot. He’s very involved in a lot of the justice work around the state. He’s called for all kinds of advice for state employees. He’s been able to give advice to our delegation at time. Not legal advice, just advice.”
Wasserman said she considers Botelho the constant “voice of reason” on the AML board no matter how heated or confused an issue becomes.
This award also is in its 11th year.
Botelho easily lists Fischer’s civic and legislative accomplishments and influences, from the forging of the state constitution to his work in providing a framework for city governments. Fischer’s involvement in directing and founding the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research is something Botelho considers to be the “forefront of providing research policymakers need to make key decisions facing Alaska.”
“What I’m trying to emphasize is why I felt so honored to have Vic Fischer, the person after whom the award is named, having him present me the award,” Botelho said. “I put him in the pantheon of Alaska’s greatest people. A role both in terms of achieving statehood for Alaska, particularly nurturing the role of local government, with the concepts of trying to divulge as much authority to the local level as possible and a minimum of overlapping local government units.”
Aside from his involvement with city government and the AML board, Botelho also has served as president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors, and served on the Federal Alaska Rural Justice and Law Enforcement Commission through AML.
Botelho’s approach to local government is about balance and interaction.
“I have a fundamental belief that local government is really where the rubber meets the road,” he said. “The public has its most direct contact with any level of government at the local level. Alaska’s a small enough place where there’s no reason for a local citizen not to know personally one or another of his or her locally elected representatives. People, at least here in Juneau, have no reticence about speaking out about things they care about.”
Botelho said he hopes he brings a sense of problem-solving to the job and, even when sides disagree, they maintain respect in those differences.
“We can make decisions, we can accept outcomes that might go against us individually because we believe there’s respect in those decisions,” he said. “We have to deal with those issues discretely, fairly, and move on. ... In a general sense, I see my job as mayor, and I think Assembly members see it as much the same way, our action should, as much as possible, reinforce people’s belief in representative democracy. That individually they can make a difference, and that’s at the local level.”
• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.