SEBRING - When Kathy Haley first ran for Sebring City Clerk in 1996, her entry into politics wasn't all that enthusiastic, she recently recalled.
"It was something I didn't want to do," she said. When people pressed her to run for city clerk after former city clerk Shirley Kitchings retired, she told them, "I can't do that."
Eventually, Haley said, she decided to run for the office. That year she won against one opponent and she's remained in the office ever since.
This year, as has been the case every year since 1999, she won election without opposition. Haley will have served two decades as clerk by the end of her next term beginning in March. But, she would have to serve at least another 14 years to possibly be the longest serving city clerk, as former city clerk Jack Stroup served 33 years, from 1957 to 1990.
The 1999 election was her most difficult one, she said. That's when a secretary working in City Hall ran against her and it appeared that insider politics were involved, Haley said.
She said she prayed and left it up to God whether she would serve another term.
As city clerk, Haley said, she has a variety of duties, one being in charge of the city elections and working with the county supervisor of elections.
Haley is also the custodian of city records. In that role, she said, she handles public records requests from residents, as well as making sure that the records are properly maintained.
She's also the city treasurer and she signs all checks, including pay checks and signs bonds.
Haley also is manager of the city's cemetery, she said, and also in charge of the Jack Stroup Civic Center and oversees employees who work at the front counter.
As city secretary, she also puts together the minutes of the city council meetings and also places notices of special meetings and legal notices in newspapers.
With such a variety of duties, she said, "I'm never dealing with the same things one day, as the day before."
The largest change in her job has been regarding use of computers, she said.
Haley, 51, is a lifelong resident of Sebring. She said her family first moved to the city in 1946.
"We never lived outside of the city limits," she said. "We never lived a mile out of the city circle."
She said she attended Woodlawn Elementary School and graduated from Sebring High School. She attended South Florida Community College for 1 1/2 years.
Before starting work at City Hall, Haley worked at a land development business and at a doctor's office. She began working for the city five years before becoming city clerk. She worked for Bob Hoffman, who at that time was city administrator, and Kitchings.
She said that besides the 1999 election one of the most difficult experiences she had was the only time they had layoffs during the time she's worked in City Hall.
"That was horrible," she said.
From being a lifelong resident of the city, she said, she wants to see the city provide good service to residents.
"I'm 100 percent dedicated to this city," she said. "I'm 100 percent dedicated to this job."