By Sue Botos
A familiar face will be missing from City Council meetings by the end of September when council clerk Misao Kurokawa retires.
“This is a great job. I’ll be sorry to go, but it’s time,” Kurokawa stated before a recent council meeting. She has held the council clerk’s position for 15 years.
Kurokawa was born in California on July 4, but moved to Arizona as an infant when her family was relocated by the U.S. government along with many other Japanese-Americans during World War II. They arrived in the Cleveland area when Kurokawa was six years old.
As an employee of then-City Councilman Warren Smith 17 years ago, Kurokawa said she first applied for the clerk’s job at the urging of her boss. “He told me, ‘You could do a great job,’” recalled Kurokowa, who followed Smith’s advice and applied, but was not immediately hired. “Two years later I was called after the (present) clerk was hired for a full-time job,” she recalled.
Kurokawa fondly remembers the various council members she has worked with over the years, as well as three mayors, Don Umerley, who passed away while holding office in 2001, William Knoble, who served from 2002 until his resignation in 2006, and Pam Bobst, who has led the city since 2007.
“He was such a nice man, very low-key. It’s such a shame that happened,” Kurokawa said recalling Umerley, whose name now graces the city’s Civic Center.
Aside from the changing faces on City Council, Kurokowa said that technology has been the biggest transformation she has seen in her job. “I learned how to type on a manual typewriter,” she recalled with a laugh. But she added that “low tech” still comes in handy at times, noting that a power failure once forced her to type council agendas the old-fashioned way, with carbon paper copies.
“There are always people here who will help you,” said Kurokawa of learning to master computers and other technological devices.
Kurokawa noted that while there usually is not a crowd in City Council chambers for council’s Monday evening meetings, this is a good thing.
“That shows people are happy with the way things are. These guys do a great job,” she stated. “This is a great council, they get along, but they also tend to business.”
Obviously, good clerical skills are essential to the job, but Kurokawa added that attention to detail is just as important. “If you make a mistake, it comes back at you quickly,” she said, noting that slip-ups sometimes are not discovered until a piece of legislation is presented to council. “You also have to have a good command of the language,” she said, referring to the ability to transcribe meeting minutes for posting on the city website and to read the sometimes long and tongue-twisting titles on legislation. Since the position is part time with flexible hours and no direct supervision, she said that the ability to work independently is also key.
Kurokawa plans on mentoring her replacement before her retirement, which she said will include travel with her husband, and more frequent visits to their two grandchildren in Columbus. “I’m going to do all those things I said I would when I retired,” she stated.
At the recent council meeting where he announced Kurokawa’s retirement, President Jim Moran noted her work throughout the years. “We’re thankful you’ve been here,” he stated.