City Secretary Has High Hopes for Huntsville

Huntsville City Secretary Lee Woodward lives her life according to neutrality, honesty and integrity. For the past nine years, the City of Huntsville has had her behind the scenes helping to steer the city in the right direction.

Tasked with council administration, elections and the role of public information officer, Woodward’s experience with the city is nothing if not extensive. She is accountable for processing public information requests, serves as parliamentarian for the council and is in charge of many other city functions.

Woodward has also coauthored the 10th and 11th editions of “Texas Municipal Clerks Handbook,” and won the local Salt Grass Chapter’s 2017 Clerk of the Year award. She also serves as president of the Texas Women Leading Government’s Gulf Coast Chapter.

Aside from the assortment of responsibilities intrinsic to the job, Lee says her true motivation is the citizens of Huntsville.

“[Huntsville residents] deserve efficient and effective governance, and their taxes fund it,” Woodward said. “Every city thinks it has the best citizens, of course, but ours are truly compassionate, concerned and hard-working.”

Even after nine years in this line of work, Woodward still finds excitement in even the day-to-day proceedings of the job.

“The other thing that wakes me up and gets me to work every day is the sheer variety of things we handle,” Woodward said.  “I get to work with the citizens, the council members and the city staff, and each has different needs and priorities. It is truly a pleasure to help find solutions, and we never stop learning, which I really like. You never know it all in this job, and if you think you do, a legislative session will come along and change something.”

Woodward’s passion for Huntsville is deep-rooted. It stems from when her family came to the city in 1968. Woodward is a proud Huntsville High School graduate.

“I eventually ended up working overseas but returned to the area around 2004 or so,” Woodward said. “A friend of mine told me the job would fit my mania for organization and multitasking. It did, and those are some of the things I really enjoy about the job.”

Asked to interview for the position in September 2009, she was given the job that same fall. However, she came to the job with an idea of how to do it.

“I had worked for a member of Congress while I was at Texas A&M and spent a semester in that office in D.C. but had never really considered a career in local government,” Woodward said.

Woodward believes being accessible, open and respondent to the community is the best way to foster relationships, in hopes that it keeps citizens informed and willing to participate more in their local community and government.

She says there are a lot of people that may not know about city hall’s purpose, atmosphere or even about local officials themselves; Woodward wishes to change that.

“I wish people knew how approachable the city council members are and how important a wide variety of public input is,” Woodward said.

“I wish more children and young people personally knew our fabulous police officers and fire firefighters. I wish more SHSU students followed the city’s social media accounts and joined in at events and volunteer opportunities, and I wish so many people would attend the State of the City address that we’d have standing room only.”

Through her life experience, Woodward has developed specific ideals about certain ways a city should be operated.

“My father held a resident alien ‘green’ card all his life and could never vote in any election in the U.S., but he was passionate about local issues,” Woodward said. “It’s really important that municipal government is not affiliated with political parties because, as they say, potholes are not Democratic or Republican. There doesn’t have to be agreement on any hot button issues in order for us to do our best for the community.”

Action, civility, awareness and compromise must be a two-way street when it comes to solving local issues. Woodward explained that starting conversations and breaking down stereotypes about the government, political parties and officials is one of the tougher aspects of the job.

“Especially in today’s environment of poor behavior on television, it can be challenging to slow the rush to make noise and assumptions when what’s needed is time spent working with those who have questions or opposing views,” Woodward said. “City employees and elected officials are open to hearing about difficulties and concerns and finding answers. Likewise, sometimes issues are easily resolved with a call to a department or the City Manager, rather than assuming no one wants to help or venting on social media. And, as is to be expected, some topics take more time and more consideration. I hope every conversation or transaction with the City of Huntsville helps tear down the stereotype of bureaucrats.”

Woodward knows Huntsville can continue improving and encourages citizens to vote, watch the live City Council Meetings on Channel 7, read the “City Connection” along with Mayor Brauninger’s monthly “Huntsville Item” contribution, visit city facilities, support local businesses and go to public festivities. Her overall advice is to just be involved.

“In any city you live in, for the rest of your life, commit to participating in some way,” Woodward said. “It could be serving on a city board, volunteering at a holiday festival, donating to a library or arts center, attending city council meetings or anything. The range of functions cities perform in different places is staggering. You will meet some good people and learn something about where you live.”

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