COVINGTON, Ky. – Covington’s new City Clerk is an amateur genealogist, makes wine and names the labels after her family’s rescue dogs, and was a Girl Scout Troop Leader for 13 years.
But what Covington residents most need to know about Susan Ellis is that she’s a problem solver who loves to interact with the public.
For Ellis, each chapter of her professional life has evolved into her next best career and afforded her the opportunity to do what she loves: find solutions.
For example, Ellis was teaching elementary math in Toledo, Ohio, when she recognized a need for instructors to teach computer classes for businesses – in language that they could actually relate to rather than technical terms. Later, she found an opportunity with a computer retailer who was seeking instructors.
“The gentleman who ran the program was thrilled that I was a teacher,” Ellis said. “He said, ‘You can’t teach a technical person how to teach, but a teacher can learn anything and teach it.’ ”
Over 17 years as a computer, software, and IT consultant, Ellis worked with businesses, schools, and organizations to find solutions to the technical problems that plagued them. Her long list of in-demand skills included analyzing business needs, database development, accounting, report development, and conducting software training classes.
Then came another opportunity: In 2016, she was working on an IT issue for a client of hers, the City of Fort Wright, when she heard about an opening for assistant city clerk. Ellis applied and was hired. By 2018, she’d become City Clerk, and in 2019, she was promoted to Treasurer.
The one thing she enjoyed most about her job as City Clerk, she said, was getting to know the residents.
“At tax time the residents loved to come in, pay their taxes, and then they would stick around and talk,” Ellis said. “I really enjoyed the interaction with the residents.”
She’s brought that same helpful, inquisitive attitude to Covington, where she was selected from 110 applicants to replace Maggie Nyhan, who retired after 20½ years with the City. Ellis has been on the job now a little over two months.
As City Clerk, Ellis prepares agendas and compiles minutes for meetings of the Covington Board of Commissioners. In addition, she makes sure legal notices and ordinances are published; is responsible for records maintenance, retention and retrieval; is continuing the digitization of City records; processes improvements for paper flow; and responds to Open Records requests.
She’s a Certified Kentucky Municipal Clerk (CKMC) as well as a Certified Municipal Clerk (CMC), through the International Institute of Municipal Clerks.
“I love that there’s always a puzzle, things to solve,” Ellis said. “It’s just a great field.”
Recently departed City Solicitor Michael Bartlett – to whom Ellis reported – said she was a fine fit from both a professional and personal standpoint.
“Susan has experience with both the role and functions of the City Clerk position,” Bartlett said. “She also has a positive attitude and is eager to help, which are key attributes for that position.”
Ellis said she is excited to be working in a city that she’s watched evolve over the years.
“There’s so much going on in Covington,” Ellis said. “It’s really nice to get off work on a Friday evening and see so many people utilizing the vendors in the City.”
When Ellis isn’t at work, she can be found navigating family genealogy – it’s how she discovered her Lithuanian roots – or making wine with her husband, Dennis. Ellis became interested in making wine after a Kentucky wine tour with her girlfriends.
To date, she and her husband have produced 43 varieties of wine, which they enjoy sharing with friends and family.
“At our last inventory, we had 675 bottles,” Ellis said.
Those bottles are fashioned with labels bearing the names and faces of the family’s beloved rescue dogs, such as “Brody’s Rescue Red” and “Bordeaux Collie,” a nod to her daughter’s Border Collie, which Ellis claims as her “grand-dog.” Though they don’t sell the wine, Ellis and her husband have named their brand “Classy Canine Wines.”
While she takes great enjoyment and pride in her professional career, Ellis says she’s particularly proud of the time she spent encouraging her children’s talents and interests.
As a Girl Scout Troop Leader for 13 years, she saw her daughter, Arrianne, earn a Girl Scout Gold Award after working with a faculty member from NKU to develop a self-guided trail in Fort Wright, identifying trees along the trail. Today, Arrianne is a program coordinator and Interpretive Naturalist.
Ellis’ son, Mitchell, is a chemist, but during her years as a Connor High School band booster, Ellis saw him as a talented trombonist. In true parental fashion, she hopes he’ll continue to take his trombone out of its case for a song or two.
# # #