ISLAMORADA -- Ariana Lawson, who has worked in the finance department as the grants and procurements administrator since early 2011, is now the new village clerk.
Village Manager Ed Koconis selected Lawson late last week to take over the position most recently held on an interim basis by Kyrie Wagner, who resigned last month. The last non-interim village clerk was Debra Eastman, who resigned in September.
Koconis' move came as part of a decision to restructure the clerk's office. Since 2006, the clerk has headed her own department and reported directly to the village manager. Lawson, however, will be bringing the position within the finance department, where her direct supervisor will continue to be Finance Director Maria Aguilar.
"We're changing the functions and duties of the clerk, trying to make the position more dynamic, especially when you talk about bonds and insurance policies," said Koconis, who went on to explain that the reorganization should reduce overlap between the finance department and the clerk's duties.
In her new post, Lawson will continue to administer village grants and contracts, just as she did in her previous post. She'll also take over responsibility for traditional clerk's tasks, including advertising meetings, document retention, handling public records requests and taking meeting minutes.
Lawson has no clerking experience, but both she and Koconis stressed that she has a similar skill set, including more than 10 years of experience in public administration and compliance review for universities and state agencies.
She said she plans to promptly start working toward credentials as a certified municipal clerk. In the new post, she wants to push forward with modernizing document retention and eventually help move all village workflow online.
"I have great relationships with each of the departments and the department heads," Lawson said Monday. "I think that will definitely be to the village's advantage."
Her new title came with a pay increase of $7,000. But since no one is taking over Lawson's old position, that is a big savings for the village. Eastman made $70,000 as clerk.
Still, Koconis' move could concern some.
Speaking to the Village Council before the reorganization had been announced last week, longtime village watchdog John Fernandez suggested that the clerk's position be elevated to a charter office alongside the village attorney and the manager. Charter positions are ones that are answerable directly to the council rather than to the manager.
"The village clerk is a critical position in the village," Fernandez said at the Nov. 29 council meeting. "He or she is the keeper of all the documents. And nobody should have any influence on that person as to what and how they are going to provide the documents that are asked for."
Instead, Lawson will be answerable not just to the manager, but also to a department head.
Though the village clerk position is now filled, the deputy clerk post remains open.
Koconis said he has yet to decide whether to hire someone for the job or to reassign the deputy clerk's responsibilities among other staff.
"We want to make sure everything else gets done, hopefully better, but at least as well," he said.