The City of Round Rock’s City Secretary Christine Martinez will be retiring this month after 22 years with the City. Here is an interview with Christine as she discusses her career with the City.
How did you come to work with the City?
I started with the City about 22 years ago. I was working a part-time job and looking for a second one when I saw that the City had an opening in Public Works. I applied and interviewed with Jim Nuse. During the interview, I told him I was looking for a second part-time job to equal a full-time job. Jim suggested I apply for a full-time position that was open in the Planning Department. He gave me a nice recommendation. I got a call from Joe Vining, the Planning Director. I interviewed with Joe and it was a good fit.
What was your title?
I do not remember. It was probably Planning Department Secretary. Other than normal secretarial responsibilities, I was mainly responsible for maintaining the agendas and minutes of the Planning and Zoning Commission. I had never taken official minutes before but I had great people who helped me learn along the way. The department was small so I caught on pretty quick. I learned what the Planning and Zoning Commission did and what plats were. During the years that I worked in Planning, I pretty much knew where every road in the City was. My employment in Planning was my first experience with municipal government.
What was the City like then?
We were across Main Street at the old City Hall, where the Library is now. Downstairs held the City Manager, City Secretary, and Building Inspections and upstairs was the Planning Department. The City was small at the time. The old Senior Center, which was torn down this month, was called the City Hall Annex and it held Finance, Municipal Court, Water Billing, Data Processing, Parks and Recreation and the break room for the Public Works employees. They even shared space with the Municipal Federal Credit Union, which is now Velocity Credit Union. Next door to the Annex was Public Works and around the corner at McNeil and Blair was the Police Department.
What are some of the biggest changes you have seen?
As far as the City, how much it has grown and the many businesses and development that has occurred compared to the early years. As far as development, the main responsibility of the Planning and Zoning Commission was the approval of subdivision plats and zoning requests, which made the agendas very long, and the meetings go late into the night. Back then, the Commission met twice a month; now on an average they meet every 5 to 6 weeks. I remember one zoning case when a man came in asking about a letter he received. I explained that someone had bought a piece of property in his neighborhood and wanted to build something other than a residential home so the zoning would need to be changed. Since he lived in that neighborhood, he had the right to express any concerns regarding the zoning or development. He asked if the development had anything to do with his property. I said that it did not. He was astonished to learn that he could tell someone what to do with their property. Another change was the number of employees the City now has.
What stands out as the most challenging time for the City in your tenure?
I can remember those years when the economy went down. There were many empty buildings and the building market was very low. There were many foreclosures and people were worried about layoffs. Bob Bennett, the city manager, assured the employees there would be no lay offs. However, he said up front that would mean no raises, either. He gave employees a choice to stay under those circumstances. I did not hear anyone complain nor do I know of people who left because of the situation. I learned that Round Rock was a place where people cared about you and were honest with you. Then, of course, several years later, things started coming back up and the City got a first class Golf Course, Dell Computers came to town and the Round Rock Express chose Round Rock as their home. These among other things brought aggressive development to Round Rock and more challenges for the City Council, City Manager and Department Directors in making Round Rock the place where people want to live. It is also challenging to make a good impression when you, as a City employee, come in contact with people when they are angry because the impression they leave with will stay with them. You want that individual to feel they have been helped in a friendly and informative way.
What has been the most fun for you at the City?
Getting to meet people from all walks of life and helping them through issues and concerns they have or with information they need even though it is not City related. Also, working with friendly and helpful employees that have the same mission, which is to provide the best customer service possible. In addition, being a part of city employee volunteers that help with many City special events.
When did you become City Secretary?
I became City Secretary October 1, 2001 after being Assistant City Secretary for thirteen years. After much encouragement by some Department Directors, I applied for the Assistant City Secretary position that opened up in 1988 and was hired as the first Assistant City Secretary of the City. Joanne Land, the former City Secretary, was a great mentor and I learned so much from her. Working in the City Secretary’s office is exciting, unpredictable, and ever changing. When Bob Bennett appointed me as City Secretary, it was an emotional rollercoaster. I could not believe that he was confident that I could do the work of the new caretaker of the City’s official records.
What do you have planned for your retirement?
I plan to travel to places I have always wanted to visit and one of my daughters has already planned family vacations for the next three years. I will have the time to focus on projects I have planned for the home I purchased a couple of years ago. I will finally get to finish sewing projects that I started and never got around to finishing. I will be able to help more at my church home, Calvary Chapel. However, the number one thing I will be doing is to spend more time with my two daughters Belinda and Nora and my four grandchildren Malia, Tessa, Abby, and Emma.
How would you sum up your career at the City?
I thank God for putting Round Rock in his plan for my life. It has been an experience of a lifetime and I would not have changed a thing. I learned so much about municipal government and the challenges that are faced in making a City become a prosperous place where people want to live and raise their children. I am grateful for the opportunity that I was given to help others accomplish the goal of making Round Rock what it is today and for becoming a part of Round Rock’s history.
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