After 9 years as clerk, Rodney Greene keeps passion for civic service
March 3, 2017
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Originally from Washington D.C. and having lived in Atlanta for several years, City Clerk Rodney Greene said he never felt more at home than when he came to Evanston just shy of 30 years ago.
The 66-year-old Greene said one of the things he loves most about Evanston is its diverse communities, especially where he lives in the 2000 block of Brown Avenue. Greene said he knows all his neighbors and feels like a “surrogate father” to the children who grew up on his block in west Evanston.
“I find that the people in Evanston are very friendly and open,” he said. “They’re willing to lay out their heart to you and not feel like you are going to label them.”
Greene worked at Emory University’s hospital in Atlanta as a research associate for four years before moving to Evanston. Although he originally came to the city to work as a research associate in cardiothoracic surgery at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Greene said he quickly realized he was meant to play a larger role in the community.
In 2008, Greene found an outlet for his passion for public service.
Former Evanston mayor Lorraine Morton, who said she’s known Greene for decades, appointed Greene as interim City Clerk after then-clerk Mary Morris stepped down in the middle of her term in 2008.
“Since then he’s had to run on his own,” she said, laughing. “I told him he needed to shape up that office and get it in the correct working order, and that’s what he did.”
Since being appointed, Greene has become a certified Master Municipal Clerk and belongs to the International Institute of Municipal Clerks, through which he mentors other clerks. Greene said he’s sought this training so he can improve the office.
“He’s gone to a lot of conferences to learn how to be a good city clerk, and I think those have helped him to understand the job,” current Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said.
Greene is very in touch with Evanston community members, Morton said.
“Working as a city clerk to me is all about the people themselves; what I can do for them, how I can serve. I have an open door policy where anybody can come in at anytime,” Greene said. “My job is more of an interpersonal relationship with those who come into my office.”
From his conversations with residents, Greene realized that some people might not be physically able to come into his office to fill out necessary forms to sell their properties, so he introduced online forms to make it easier for everyone.
Morton said she recalled one election day when Greene brought chairs for people who couldn’t stand while they waited in line to vote.
“I have to give Rodney credit,” Morton said. “He’s very sensitive to the needs of the community. I think that’s very commendable.”
When he isn’t working at the Civic Center, Greene enjoys photography, poetry, singing and acting.
Greene, who also said he is a preacher, is involved in many sectors of the community. He reads to students at local elementary schools and works with the Foster Senior Club of Evanston, local churches and the Kiwanis Club.
“He’s affable too, he’s not a grouchy guy, and he’s not pompous at all,” Morton said.
Greene, who is running for reelection this spring, said he has the training and education to do the job.
Devon Reid, Greene’s sole opponent in the April municipal election, said he would try to turn the clerk’s office into a more public role, fighting homelessness and enhancing voter participation. Greene emphasized that the city clerk does not make policy or create ordinances or solutions. Essentially, Greene said, clerks are nothing more than “educated secretaries and librarians.”
Greene said that he thinks promising Evanston residents new policies that cannot legally be instituted by a city clerk is a “disservice” to the community.
“I’m not a politician, and I don’t make promises I can’t keep,” he said.
Kristina Karisch contributed reporting.