On a cool January morning in 1980, 27-year old Kathryn Armstrong reported to work in a converted home on Calle Concordia that served as Oro Valley’s town hall.

It was a big step for the divorced single mother who had worked mostly secretarial jobs to that point.

This job, a deputy town clerk for an emerging municipality, required a level of trust and responsibility she had never experienced — attending public meetings, taking minutes to be kept in perpetuity, and understanding the legalities of official government business.

Kathi had little idea then that she had embarked on a journey that would last 30 years, and along the way install her as a department-level manager with the town.

Along the way she also remarried, adopting the name that most people know her by today: Kathi Cuvelier.

After 30 years on the job with the town, 27 as the town clerk, Cuvelier plans to retire in January.

“I was the 10th employee, so we were able to get health insurance,” Cuvelier said.

Cuvelier grew up in the Northwest, graduating from Canyon Del Oro High School in 1971. The school had a secretarial program where she studied typing and learned the now-lost art of shorthand.

Since joining the town, Cuvilier has seen breakneck growth following incorporation in 1974, going from a tiny hamlet of a few thousand people to a full-fledged town of more than 40,000 people.

Along the way, Cuvelier also has acquired a verifiable expertise in local government and elections law.

“I became an expert in recall law not because I wanted to,” Cuvelier said.

The role was forced upon her, because between 1993 and 2000, the town had numerous recall elections. Cuvelier described the era as Oro Valley’s “dark days.”

Municipal clerks in the state preside over the logistics of local elections, and Cuvelier’s peers among the Arizona Municipal Clerks Association have come to rely upon her know-how.

“She’s the epitome of what we look to when we say we’re a helping community,” said Darcie McCracken, president of the clerks’ association and deputy clerk for the City of Glendale. “She’s very well-respected in the clerks’ community.”

It wasn’t always like that, Cuvelier admits. In fact, at the first public meeting that she had to work alone, she was terrified.

The event was a planning and zoning hearing on a proposed rezoning. A divide had emerged in the young town about whether to allow smaller residential lot sizes, effectively opening the door for the town to change from its rural founding.

“I had never been at a contentious meeting where people were mad or angry,” Cuvelier said. “I was just a wreck.”

When the meeting ended, her boss reviewed her notes and assured Cuvelier that she had done a fine job. That boss, it turns out, would come to play a larger role in Cuvelier’s life than either could have imagined.

Many people know Patricia Noland as the elected clerk of the Pima County Superior Court and a former state legislator. In 1978, she was Oro Valley’s town clerk, town manager and building official, and did just about any other job the small community needed.

Noland offered Cuvelier the job as deputy clerk in 1980. The decision still amazes Cuvelier.

“I had no idea what a municipality was or what a town council did,” Cuvelier said.

That didn’t matter to Noland.

“I liked her demeanor,” Noland said.

That Cuvelier became an expert in her field doesn’t surprise Noland. But she’s a little shocked that Cuvelier has stayed with the town all these years.

“She’s hung in there,” Noland said. “That’s just the type of person she is.”

Another relationship Cuvelier has hung in there on is her nearly 26-year marriage to Keith. Noland introduced them to one another.

“That’s two life-changing things,” Noland joked.

Cuvelier’s long tenure with the town has come to represent something more to her colleagues than a standard work relationship.

“She was the one who always made it feel like a family atmosphere,” said Oro Valley Deputy Chief of Police Larry Stevens. Stevens, who has worked for the town nearly as long as Cuvelier has, said she also has always been the one constant at the town.

“It’s going to be strange, because whenever I couldn’t find some information about the town, Kathi always could,” Stevens said. “I don’t know who that person will be now.”

Throughout her time with Oro Valley, Cuvelier has worked for 42 town council members and seven mayors.

Former Mayor Paul Loomis served on the council for 12 years.

“She’s always been a bright personality out there, her attitude has always been fabulous,” Loomis said. “She was a great face for the town.”

Loomis said he came to rely heavily upon Cuvelier’s expertise during his time as mayor. He said the clerk’s job is one of the most important jobs at any town.

“She was a pleasure to work with,” Loomis said.

Cuvelier said she intends to stay active in retirement. She’s planned a few trips for next year, and wants to volunteer her time at a local hospice.

Her final day with town is scheduled to be Jan. 3, 2011.

Julie Bower named next town clerk

Oro Valley has hired a new town clerk.

Julie Bower begins her duties Jan. 3, according to a release. She succeeds longtime Town Clerk Kathi Cuvelier, who is retiring after a 30-year tenure with Oro Valley.

An Iowa native, Bower moved to Tucson in 2008. She has been working as the deputy court administrator for the Tucson City Court. Prior to that, she worked in the court system in Lone Tree, Colo., followed by deputy city clerk position and then the city clerk for the City of Littleton, Colo., from 1994 to 2008.

“I’m looking forward to returning to the clerk’s office,” Bower said. “I enjoy working with city councils, and I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen in Oro Valley.”

“Julie is bringing strong, broad experience from other organizations in Clerk duties coupled with years of management in human resources and information technology that support a clerk’s role which will be extremely valuable,” said Jerene Watson, town manager. “Her reputation as a highly-regarded employee in both her former communities in Colorado and in Tucson is a strong indicator of what her contribution will be to our team and this town.”

Bower is a designated certified municipal clerk, and has been awarded a master municipal clerk status by the International Institute of Municipal Clerks. Bower expects to complete her bachelor’s degree in public administration in the next few years.

She and her husband, Kevin, reside in Tucson; they have two grown daughters and a granddaughter.

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