Normal Saline City Council proceedings came to a halt Monday night as city leaders, past and present, honored Dianne S. Hill for her 40 years of service.
Hill, the City of Saline Clerk since 1988, has been with the city since 1971. A life-long resident of Saline, Hill began working for the city as a Saline High School senior in a co-op program. She’s been working for Salinians ever since.
Just a moment into Monday’s meeting Mayor Gretchen Driskell brought Hill with her from the council table to the chamber’s floor, where she was to present Hill with an official letter of recognition. By the time the pair reached their destination, the back of the council’s chambers filled in with dozens of Hill’s friends, family members and colleagues. Hill was visibly surprised by the gesture, which was planned by Deputy Clerk Jackie Lindimore, Assistant Clerk Aimee Rutledge, City Manager Todd Campbell, Treasurer Mickie Joe Bennett, administrative assistant Justine Mira and Mayor Driskell.
Driskell read the letter of recognition, which summarized some of the milestones in her career. The letter also said Hill “displayed the highest example of character, ethics, morals and unselfish service to the citizens of Saline.”
Driskell and her predecessors, Patrick Little and Donald E. Shelton, and City Manager Campbell remarked about Hill's importance to the city.
Driskell noted that she is recognized throughout the county by her peers.
“She’s always the first to get the votes in. She’s the first to review the ballots and catch the mistakes,” Driskell said. “We’re very fortunate to have someone of this caliber, not only in our midst, but in our midst for 40 years.
Shelton described a lesson he learned 35 years ago, when he first joined city council.
“One of the most important things that I came to learn on council, and no offense to Gretchen or Pat or any of the council members, is that we elected officials don’t matter much at all. It’s people like Dianne and (former Clerk) Connie (Strait) that are the city to most people,” Shelton said. “When people want services or want something from their city government, these are the people they come to.”
Shelton said Hill was among the people who helped Saline become the modern city it is today.
“They are the ones who are responsible for making Saline the modern city that it is today and the beautiful place that it is,” Shelton said. “On behalf of everyone who has wanted something from the city or just enjoyed living here, thanks. You’re wonderful.”
Little said Hill often “saved his bacon” when he was mayor. Little said that Hill’s predecessor, Connie Strait, helped him get started. But still, he said, he lacked know-how when it came to running meetings.
“I followed two strong guys in Don Shelton and Mark Hopper who were attorneys who knew all about gavel-banging and all that stuff. Every time I’d go to make a mistake, she’d stop me and slap my hand,” he said. Or kick his shins, Little said, joking that he still has bruises.
Little said Hill does “so many little things, and does them well.” He said one of the things he really appreciated was the way she put the agenda together.
“It’s not just filling out a form and putting the agenda together. It’s listening to what the mayor wants and understanding all of the cities ordinances and that kind of thing. And she just does it all like it’s no big deal,” Little said. “She was a great asset to me and a big help, and I thank you.”
Campbell said people like Hill are what make Saline the great place it is.
“It starts with folks like Diane who have been here, have grown up here, and that care about the community,” Campbell said. “There’s just a tremendous amount of effort and commitment.”
Campbell said he draws upon Hill’s knowledge frequently.
“We all here are certainly indebted to your commitment to this community and to this organization,” Campbell said.
The organized surprise party worked, and planners and Hill both seemed surprised they were able to pull it off without Hill’s knowledge.
“I’m flabbergasted,” said Hill.
Hill thanked her staff and co-workers, as well as the people she works for.
“We all work together and we are a great team. I couldn’t have done it all these years without them,” Hill said.
The job isn’t always easy.
“There have been many times when you want to walk away and you are mad, but you love your job. I love what I do. I need to thank the community for allowing me to do this job for 40 years. I plan to be here a little longer,” she said, with the last sentence drawing applause from the audience.
Hill said she wasn’t sure she’d make it to 50 years, like city attorney Allan Grossman, who, she said, was a great source of support.
Hill also thanked her predecessor, Connie Strait.
“I had a great mentor. I couldn’t have done this job without her. I just followed in her footsteps. They were big shoes to fill,” Hill said.
After the speeches, the meeting recessed for 15 minutes as "the party" convened to the board room for cake and refreshments.
Hill was named Deputy Clerk in 1974 before being appointed City Clerk in 1988. She received her Certified Municipal Clerk certification from the International Institute of Municipal Clerks in 1994 and is currently enrolled in the Master Municipal Clerk Academy. She received Election Officials’ Accreditation through the Michigan Department of State Bureau of Elections in 2002 and is an active member of the Michigan Municipal Clerk’s Association and Washtenaw County Municipal and Township Clerk’s Association.