Respected longtime Grosse Pointe City clerk retires

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 11, 2023

 Grosse Pointe City Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Julie Arthurs worked for the city for more than 26 years before her retirement Dec. 31.

Grosse Pointe City Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Julie Arthurs worked for the city for more than 26 years before her retirement Dec. 31.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

GROSSE POINTE CITY — Whether it was a primary, special or general election, Grosse Pointe City Clerk/Assistant City Manager Julie Arthurs would arrive at her office by 5:30 a.m. and stay until all the ballots were tabulated after the polls closed at 8 p.m., translating into a workday that easily exceeded 15 hours.

This year, though, Arthurs will finally be able to sleep in. After a career spanning more than 26 years, she retired Dec. 31.

“It won’t seem real until I wake up on election morning and don’t have to be somewhere,” Arthurs said.

In the midst of the bustle that is an election day, Arthurs was a calm, steady and unflappable presence, able to resolve even the most complicated issues. Never one to seek the spotlight, though, she’s quick to thank her dedicated election workers and fellow City staffers for their help to make each election go as smoothly as possible.

“I don’t think of my individual accomplishments,” Arthurs said. “We’re always working as a team. Especially with elections — there’s so many people involved. For a small city, it’s all hands on deck.”

Hired as the City’s deputy clerk and executive secretary in 1996, Arthurs became the city clerk in 2001 and added assistant city manager to her title in 2010.

Arthurs now lives in Macomb Township, but she grew up in Center Line. A visit by the Center Line city manager to her high school English class is what led her into a career in public service. Arthurs said Center Line was looking for a student intern to work at City Hall. Her interest piqued, Arthurs applied and, at 16, she started working part-time for the city, spending a couple of hours each day after school in the office.

“That was my very first job,” Arthurs said. “It was all by chance.”

The city manager was so impressed with her that he offered Arthurs a full-time job when she graduated from St. Clement High School in Center Line. Arthurs was hired to work as an election clerk and customer service agent, a job she held from 1988 to 1996.

Her experience and knowledge of optical scanners — which had by then been used by Center Line but were just being adopted by Grosse Pointe City — helped her land her next post, in the City. Both jobs found her working in small municipalities, which Arthurs enjoyed.

“Being at a small city, it’s never the same day twice,” Arthurs said.

Her friendly demeanor and ability to learn quickly made her ideally suited to the position of city administrator.

“I like working with all different kinds of people and meeting new people,” Arthurs said. “I really feel like our group at Grosse Pointe City is like a family. I really like my work and making sure our records are accurate. I’ve been doing it my whole life. It’s kind of ingrained in me.”

Grosse Pointe City Manager Peter Dame said Arthurs deserves kudos for all she’s done for the City.

“We are so grateful for Julie Arthurs for her 26 years of service here as a Clerk and as Assistant Manager for the last 11 years,” Dame said via email. “She demonstrates the utmost in professionalism and excellence that we all strive hard to achieve and does so with the ultimate in grace and integrity. The City will greatly miss her.”

The Grosse Pointe City Council presented Arthurs with a resolution in her honor at a meeting Dec. 19 — a resolution that, as one official noted, was the first one in many years that Arthurs hadn’t penned. Mayor Sheila Tomkowiak, who read and presented the resolution to Arthurs, told her she would be “greatly, greatly missed.”

The resolution, in part, states that Arthurs “upholds the highest of standards for public servants. She is knowledgeable, efficient, hard-working and organized. She acts with integrity and honesty at all times. She is a model for all who aspire to work on behalf of the public good.”

City Councilman Terence Thomas congratulated Arthurs on her retirement.

“I don’t think it can be overstated how well you’ve done your duty, especially over these difficult (recent) elections,” Thomas said.

City Councilman Christopher Walsh also commended Arthurs for her work.

“We’re happy for you, but you’ll be greatly missed,” Walsh said. “Thank you for your service.”

Arthurs’ professional colleagues were also quick to sing her praises. Grosse Pointe Farms Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Derrick Kozicki has known Arthurs for the last nine years.

“She is well respected amongst (Grosse Pointe) and Michigan election administrators for her knowledge and experience,” Kozicki said.

Grosse Pointe Park City Clerk Jane Blahut — who is also her city’s treasurer and finance director — has served in these capacities for the last 33 years, so she has known Arthurs for her entire career in Grosse Pointe City.

Blahut called Arthurs “loyal, conscientious and very efficient” and said she has always run “a thorough and efficient election,” in an email interview.

She was also one to lend a helping hand whenever needed.

“Julie was always willing to assist other clerks in other communities,” Blahut said.

For years, Arthurs kept a quote from St. Augustine on her bulletin board: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

Travel is one of the passions Arthurs will now be able to indulge in, along with hobbies like gardening, baking and golf. Arthurs, who recently turned 54, is also looking forward to spending more time with friends and family — including her three older sisters. Her parents are deceased.

Arthurs and her husband, Kenneth Arthurs, will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in 2023. Her husband retired from his position with the Department of Homeland Security in September.

“We have had a retirement plan in place for years,” Arthurs said.

She said they’re considering becoming snowbirds, with a separate place somewhere warm where they can spend the winter. This month, they planned to visit Mexico to get away from the Michigan chill.

Grosse Pointe City Assistant to the City Manager Christopher Hardenbrook — who started working for the City 19 years ago as the parks and recreation director — was officially named the new city clerk Dec. 19. He said he’s “excited about the new challenges and new responsibilities” but called filling Arthurs’ shoes “an impossible task.” Hardenbrook feels fortunate to have been able to train under Arthurs for the last two years in anticipation of her retirement.

“Julie is the best city clerk by far that anyone will ever meet,” Hardenbrook said. “It’s great to learn from the best. I thank her for her time, her expertise (and) her patience.”

Like other city administrators, Hardenbrook has helped out on Election Day for about the last 10 years.

“With a small community like we are … each department helps out the other departments,” Hardenbrook said. “And we rely on each other.”

Although Arthurs said with a smile that she won’t miss “the stressful, tedious parts” of her job, she said she will miss her friends and the camaraderie.

“I’m so grateful to the people I’ve worked with over the years,” Arthurs said.