Let’s get something straight.
Before you check out my consulting offerings, I want to make sure we are on the same page about the services I offer and my qualifications to do so.
The internet is full of consultants who promise the world, people who think it’s okay to “fake it until they make it.”
That’s not me.
My Pledge to You
My pledge to you is that I’ll always be upfront and straightforward with you about every aspect of our work together. I want to start right here and now by telling you what my experience consists of and what that qualifies me to do for you.
Now, I’m not going to be falsely modest. My work history includes a unique combination of communications, project management, and administrative work that I know can be of great benefit to my customers. But it’s important that you understand something of that work history, so that you can make the most informed decision about whether I’ll be a good fit for your project or team.
A Little History
I started Cotterpin Consulting in the last days of 2016, but that was not the first time that I had hung out a shingle. From 2007 until 2012, I provided freelance consulting services to a range of media, marketing, and business clients.
Back then, my services emphasized research, writing, and editing—for the simple reason that these were the skills that I had had the most opportunity to strengthen and refine up to that point. (I had been developing these skills since 2002, when I first started doing professional research and editorial work for the education department of the University of Maryland and for InterGroup Services, a Baltimore consulting firm specializing in public health policy.)
Research and Editorial Services
If you need research or editorial services, I’ve got you covered—no question. My offerings in this area are well developed, and I’ll step forward without reservation to help you with any kind of document or publication that you can think of, from bullet points backgrounding you on a tough issue for your next council meeting to policy analysis and decision recommendations requiring hundreds of pages of texts and charts. (Read more here.)
However, since my last go-round as an independent operator, I have gained new skills that greatly expand what I am able to offer to both government and nonprofit customers.
What I Learned as City Clerk
From 2012 through 2016, I served as city clerk of Elkins, the 20th largest city in West Virginia (and a beautiful, friendly place I’m still proud to call home). This was an incredible learning experience. Not only did I get to master the duties and tasks of a city clerk (known in some cities as the recorder), but—because I and the city’s other four administrative officers worked closely together on everything from personnel issues to planning the annual citywide budget—I was also able to learn about (and from) the operations and administration of the city’s other four divisions (treasurer, public works, police, and fire).
In my time as city clerk, not only did I further strengthen my abilities in research, analysis, communications, and public relations, I also gained experience in financial management, project management, administrative procedures, and regulatory compliance. Interwoven through all of these areas were opportunities to practice skills like process design, negotiation, collaboration, and problem solving. (For specific examples, please review the list at the bottom of this page.)
My experiences as city clerk are what I want to share and build on; they are the basis for the proposed consulting services described elsewhere on this website.
But again, at this point these are still proposed offerings. In other words, if you decide to retain me to—for example—lead a workshop on planning and facilitating public meetings, you need to know two things up front.
Two Things You Need to Know
First, although I’ve provided a great deal of guidance about best meeting practices to elected officials and city staff, I haven’t yet been engaged as a consultant to run a workshop like that, so we’ll be developing it together. (That’s not a bad thing. You’ll know that you’ll be getting fresh work designed for your specific needs, not something I’ve had “canned” on the shelf for years. It will also be priced accordingly.)
Second, even though I have not offered that workshop as a consultant yet, my qualifications for doing so are based on (to continue using the example of a workshop on public meetings) my having planned, facilitated, attended, and/or presented at more than 250 public meetings of governing bodies, in compliance with council rules, Robert’s Rules, and open meetings and ethics laws.
Again, please review the list at the bottom of the page for further examples.
And once you have—once we are on the same page about my background and qualifications—please click on through to my proposed offerings and let me know what I can do for you.
Sample Accomplishments as City Clerk
Below, you’ll find a list of some of my accomplishments and experiences as the city clerk of Elkins, West Virginia.
Communications and Public Relations
- Established and managed relationships with print and broadcast journalists to support the city’s public-facing message management.
- Managed the city’s social media presence, including by starting the city’s first Facebook page and growing its followers to more than 2,500 people in the first two years of its existence.
- Managed the creation of a new municipal website, including coordinating with designers; planning the structure of the site to be logical and customer-friendly; and creating clear, concise, informative text on all pages.
- Presented data, analysis, and training to internal and external audiences.
- Designed dozens of Microsoft Word templates to ensure consistency and professionalism in internal and external city documents and publications.
- Detected vulnerabilities with and designed and administered procedures to safeguard the execution of the city’s fiduciary and other duties on both internal and “pass through” grants.
- Complied with record keeping and reporting requirements for more than half a million dollars in state and federal grants, including U.S. Housing and Urban Development Emergency Shelters Grants, the U.S. Department of Justice Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program, West Virginia DOT Transportation Enhancement Grants, West Virginia Development Office Growing Healthy Communities Grants, and West Virginia Governor’s Community Participation Grants.
- Provided technical support for planning the city’s budget, including monitoring compliance with state-mandated schedules and steps and creation of spreadsheets and other tools to support achieving balance across multiple departments.
- Managed the annual budget of the Office of the City Clerk.
Research and Analysis
- Provided research, analysis, and decision support for the city’s 10 elected officials and four fellow department heads.
- Produced, edited, and revised formal and informal documents, including city policies, rules, and regulations; issue and legislative briefs and analysis; grant applications and reports; and press releases.
- Managed such projects as the city’s first comprehensive plan; the city council’s first strategic planning process; the city’s first digital database of addresses; and the modernization and standardization of city council processes and record-keeping.
Administration and Compliance
- Supported compliance with state-mandated audit procedures and the city’s policies, rules, and regulations.
- Administered the state-regulated, civil-service hiring and promotion process for city police and firefighters.
- Directed citywide elections, supervising a staff of 25 and ensuring compliance with federal, state, and city election laws.
- Planned, facilitated, attended, and/or presented at more than 250 public meetings of governing bodies, ensuring compliance with council rules, Robert’s Rules, and open meetings and ethics laws.
- Oriented newly elected mayors and council members to council rules and procedures, best practices for interacting with constituents and the media, and open meetings and ethics laws.
Other Governance Experience
My governance experience also includes providing administrative and research support to a blue-ribbon panel appointed by the Mayor of Baltimore to oversee the allocation of some $20 million in healthcare funding and service on the boards of Woodlands Development Group, a Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO) and Woodlands Community Lenders, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), in the fields of workforce housing and small-business creation. In those capacities, I gained even more experience in planning and facilitating meetings and retreats; personnel and financial administration; board member recruitment; and team dynamics.