Community champions: Rita Lee
Keeping a steady hand on city government
By Clif Knight
Photo by Rachel Howard
When Rita Lee assumed the position of Hartselle city clerk in 2001, she knew little about the day-to-day responsibilities of the job.
“I was a beginner serving under a newcomer mayor and city council,” she recalled. “I needed all the help I could get. That’s when I decided the training program offered by the Alabama Association of Municipal Clerks and Administrators was for me.”
The emphasis on continuing career education became even more important a short time later when the city administrator’s position was vacated, and Lee’s position was upgraded to city clerk-controller.
Lee attained certified municipal clerk status in 2004 and master municipal clerk status in 2008. She served as District X1 director for five years and on committees for Education and Clerk of the Year in 2011. She was nominated for Clerk of the Year Award in 2014 and was awarded the designation AAMCA Clerk of the Year in 2018.
“None of this would have been possible without the help and mentoring of my fellow clerks,” Lee said. “Alone you can be a good city clerk, but working together as part of the district, state and international municipal clerks’ associations, we can be the best.”
Lee has had “the honor and privilege of working with five different mayors and city councils and a wonderful team of department heads and professionals that call Hartselle home and strive to make it one of the best communities in which to live, work and play,” she added. “I can’t imagine doing anything different.”
A Blount County native, Lee graduated from Susan Moore High School and earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Alabama in 1982.
She has a daughter, Kelsey Lee, 30, who graduated from UAH in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in history.
In her role as city clerk-controller, Lee supervises all employees in the city’s administration department, including the HR administrator, municipal court clerk and magistrates, revenue officer, accounting technician, IT systems administrator and all library personnel.
She also secures and allocates all funds received by the city; makes daily bank deposits; invests city funds; coordinates banking services; approves all requisitions, purchase orders and invoices prior to payment; disburses funds as appropriate; approves and signs all checks; prepares and issues monthly financial reports to the mayor, city council and department heads; prepares and oversees the annual budget; and prepares information and documents for auditors.
She administers the collection of all city taxes, permits, business and alcohol licenses and other receivables, and she enforces city business licenses, sales use and rental, lodging, gasoline and tobacco and alcohol ordinances.
As chairwoman of the Alcohol Review Committee, she meets with alcohol license applicants and coordinates all meeting reviews, public hearings and city council consideration of alcohol applications. She also oversees the collection of all alcohol–related fees and taxes.
As grant administrator, she assists in writing grants internally and with outside grant writers in the preparation of grant applications and handles all receivables, payables and record keeping for all city grants. She is also the elections manager for the city, responsible for all city elections, and serves as the city’s bond compliance officer.
Her community service activities include membership in the Hartselle Rotary Club and serving as a board member of the Mental Health Center of NCA. She is a past member and past board president of Hartselle Beautification Association, past board member of the Hartselle Fine Arts Center and past board member of Hospice of the Valley.
“As the city has grown, so has my workload,” Lee said. “I plan a schedule of work for each day, but it seldom works out as planned. I never know when something unexpected will pop up and take me away from the task at hand.
“I have learned from experience that ‘flexibility’ is an important part of the job.”
“Working on a team that pulls together to achieve common goals is what I like most about my job,” Lee added. “I wouldn’t want to do anything different.”
Mayor Randy Garrison said Lee “always puts the city first.”
“She’s a valuable resource we’re fortunate to have here,” he added. “I know she makes my job a lot easier.”