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Longtime Shores staffer takes on interim town clerk duties

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of June 16, 2022)

A longtime, trusted town staffer, Elizabeth “Liz” Scheidel, has stepped in as interim town clerk until the Indian River Shores Town Council can finalize the hiring of Janice Rutan as permanent town clerk later this month.

Former Town Clerk Laura Aldrich’s retirement, followed by the sudden death of Interim Town Clerk Chelley Pallo-Darnell in May, left the Shores with no designated person to serve in the official position mandated by the Florida law and the town charter to complete certain government functions. Scheidel, the town’s building official assistant for 18 years, agreed to serve during the transition.

“After the tragic loss of Chelley Pallo, Liz immediately offered to assist in any way. When asked to step in as interim town clerk, she did not hesitate,” Town Manager Jim Harpring said. “The Town Council is very appreciative of her willingness to serve in a dual role until a new town clerk is hired. And I am personally thankful for her unflinching dedication to the town.”

After narrowing down the list of town clerk applicants, council members chatted with the most qualified in-state candidate first. “Town Council conducted individual interviews with candidate Janice Rutan last week,” Harpring said in late May. Individual meetings with each council member separately were necessary due to Florida’s open meeting laws.

Rutan, 64, serves as town administrator for the Town of Haverhill, in Palm Beach County, and has extensive training in and knowledge of Florida’s open records and open meetings laws. She holds both the Certified Municipal Clerk and Master Municipal Clerk designations, which the council desired after Aldrich, a Master Municipal Clerk, retired.

Rutan is also a licensed Realtor with the State of Florida. The town had another qualified applicant from out of state, but Florida’s broad Sunshine Laws would have been something new to learn.

At the May council meeting after each council member met with Rutan, “Council authorized the town manager to discuss terms of employment and a prospective start date. Once completed, this will come back before Council at the June 23 Town Council meeting for final approval,” Harpring said.

Harpring said Rutan will be present at the June 23 meeting and, provided the council votes yes, she’s scheduled to start Aug. 1, giving her five weeks to work out her notice to Haverhill, and to relocate.

Haverhill is located just west of Palm Beach International Airport and has an estimated population of 2,200. The median age of Haverhill residents is 37.7 years, and the town has grown by about 330 people since 2010. The median household income is $80,500, according to the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau.

Once hired, Rutan initially will answer to the Town Council, but if proposed changes to the town charter are approved by voters in a special mail ballot early next year, the town clerk would then report to the town manager.