GLENWOOD SPRINGS — After 29 years with the city of Glenwood Springs, Robin Unsworth is more than a city clerk. She’s more like a city historian who, if she doesn’t have the answer at her fingertips, she sure knows where to find it in short order.
“I’ve never seen her stumped on anything,” said Dave Sturges, a Glenwood Springs City Council member for the past seven years who has known Unsworth in both an official capacity as a councilman and planning and zoning commissioner, and as an engaged citizen just looking for the occasional piece of information prior to his own public service.
“Her knowledge is so extensive and useful when it comes to all sorts of procedures that not a lot of people understand she’s responsible for, from city elections to gathering information for agenda items,” he said. “Just keeping track of and retaining important documents is a huge responsibility.”
Unsworth, 60, officially retired Monday, concluding a career with the city that began as a legal secretary and paralegal in the city attorney’s office in the mid-1980s before she was appointed city clerk in 1994.
Her decision came a bit earlier than she had hoped, after she experienced lung failure upon returning from a vacation to Arizona in January and ended up in the intensive care unit at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction.
Unsworth, who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, has since been recuperating at her home in Rifle with the hope of eventually returning to her duties.
“It was a bittersweet decision, but it was one that needed to be made,” Unsworth said before a retirement party Monday afternoon at Glenwood Springs City Hall. “The city needs a clerk, and I just couldn’t do it anymore.”
In her 20 years as city clerk, Unsworth saw a lot of changes, mostly related to technological advances.
She remembers recording City Council meetings using a small cassette tape recorder in the old city hall building at Eighth and Cooper, where the downtown fire station now sits.
When the new City Hall was built on West Eighth Street in the late 1990s, Unsworth not only helped with the design and layout, she was put in charge of coming up with the money for a new recording and sound system for the council chambers.
That particular item didn’t make it into the project budget, she noted, but she was able to obtain a grant.
“There was always something new for clerks to use,” Unsworth said of the move from paper to electronic records.
One of her last projects was to store all of the city’s records on laser microfiche. That’s 100 years worth of records and more than 3 million recorded documents.
“It still needs some work yet, but we’re getting there,” she said.
Eventually, the system could be expanded to include a way for the public to view records online, she said, but that will take time and money to implement.
Unsworth was also quick to acknowledge her colleagues, many of whom have long tenures with the city also.
“It’s difficult to point to anything or anyone in particular, because it takes so many people to make that place run,” she said. “The city’s management team is the best that there could be, and they are all very professional and knowledgeable.”
She said she’ll also miss the friendships she has developed during her years working for the city. But she is also looking forward to retirement, which means more time with her six grandchildren and longer stints in Arizona RV camping during the winter with her husband, David.
“I started with the city as a young mom, and I’m ending as a grandma,” Unsworth said of a career that also included raising three sons, all of whom still live on the Western Slope.
“Hopefully I can get stronger and do more walking, and maybe even get back out on the golf course again,” she said.
Added Glenwood Springs City Manager Jeff Hecksel, who has worked with Unsworth for the past 10 years, “Certainly, Robin will be missed. I have enjoyed working with her, and she has done a great job as city clerk.”
Hecksel said the city clerk duties have been split between several city staffers during the interim and will continue to be until a new city clerk is hired. The city has begun the recruitment process and will advertise the position soon, he said, adding he hopes to have the position filled “as soon as possible.”