When Jennifer Cusmir enters Lodi City Hall later this month to fill an essential position that’s been vacant for the past six months, she will be returning home, in a sense.
The Yuba City native, 44, was approved as Lodi City Clerk by the Lodi City Council during a special meeting Tuesday morning.
Cusmir has spent the last 18 years in the Seattle metropolitan area, and said she’s looking forward to returning to California.
Her first day as city clerk will be July 27. She replaced Jennifer Ferraiolo, who retired in December after 25 years as both city clerk and deputy city clerk.
“Lodi had the specific position open for which I’ve gone to school,” Cusmir said from her home in Washington Tuesday. “Before COVID, (Lodi) seemed to have been establishing itself in the wine industry and doing a lot to improve tourism. It just seemed like it was on the edge of putting its name out there, and I liked that.”
Cusmir began her post-college career as an administrative assistant at a Bellevue, Wash. animal hospital. In 2007, she took on a similar role with the City of Auburn Public Works Department in Washington, staying there for nearly seven years.
“That is where I discovered I had a great affinity and passion for local government,” she said. “I had the opportunity to see how government impacts people’s lives, and I knew I wanted to be a part of that and help make a contribution in a positive way.”
She was hired as the Deputy City Clerk in Maple Valley, Wash., in 2014, a bedroom community some 20 miles outside of Seattle, most of which are employed at MicroSoft and Boeing, she said.
After four years, Cusmir said the Maple Valley city manager was interested in creating a communications specialist to promote the growing community of about 26,000, and selected her to take on the job.
Some of her responsibilities as communications specialist included creating press releases, a city newsletter and managing Maple Valley’s social media pages.
While she doesn’t know if some of the duties she performed in this role will be needed when she comes to Lodi, Cusmir said she would be willing to help in any capacity with regard to social media updates or issuing breaking news out of city hall.
When she starts in late July, Cusmir will hit the ground running with elections, as the nomination period will be in full swing for city council.
She said she has been working with the California Fair Political Practices Commission to learn the ins and outs of the state’s election system.
In Washington, all elections are handled by a county’s registrar of voters, including city races, she said.
She’s confident she will be up to speed with California election law by the time she starts on July 27, she said.
Cusmir was chosen from a pool of more than half a dozen candidates, but Mayor Doug Kuehne said her work experience at a variety of city departments made her a good fit for the city clerk position.
“She’s from California, and she wanted to come back,” Kuehne said. “She just had a great resume, and the experience she provided shows how involved she has been as a city clerk in Washington. We’re happy to bring her on board.”
Lodi City Manager Steve Schwabauer said Cusmir will earn $120,436.29 annually in her new role, and added he was excited to have her join the team at city hall.
“She’s committed and self-motivated. She’s done a fair amount of research about Lodi and the election system in California,” he said. “When speaking to her during the interview process, she had a lot of answers to questions I didn’t expect, and that shows she has initiative and creativity. I think she’ll work well here.”
Cusmir’s husband Mike is a flooring specialist, and the couple moved to the Seattle area nearly two decades ago before they were married to be closer to his family.
He will be coming back to California with her, along with their two dogs. They have no children, and when the couple isn’t working, they enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking and camping.
She studied political science and government at Yuba College in the mid-1990s, and earned a bachelor’s degree in public service and public policy from Arizona State University in 2017. She obtained a master’s in public administration from Arkansas State University last year.
“I’m really looking forward to joining the team at Lodi,” she said. “It’s been a difficult process because we have to use Zoom for interviews. But I’ve talked to the mayor and Steve over the phone a bit, and I’m just excited to become part of the community.”