By Charles Sercombe
Meet August Gitschlag, who for the last several months has been Hamtramck’s Acting City Clerk.
Last week, he received a promotion from Emergency Manager Cathy Square, and he is now the permanent City Clerk.
We asked August to introduce himself to the community. Here is our chat with him:
Tell us about yourself:
Gitschlag: I am 39 years old, born and raised on the east side of Detroit, and after eight years at St. Jude School on Moross, my family moved to St. Clair Shores where I have lived ever since.
When I was 20 years old I was first introduced to Hamtramck when playing softball for The New Dodge Lounge in the Hamtramck Friday Night Rec League.
I graduated from James Madison College at Michigan State University with a degree in Political Economy in 1997 and went to work for US Congressman David Bonior in 1998. After the Congressman’s unsuccessful run for governor, I worked in the private sector for a couple years, and began volunteering to assist Chris Cornwell and George Kristy with the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival. I assisted with the festival for about 10 years.
I worked in the Macomb County Elections Department, then took a position as Deputy Clerk of Brownstown Twp. I went on to work as public affairs director for Sen. Buzz Thomas, and when my friend Chris Cornwell purchased Whiskey In The Jar bar on Yemans I began filling in bartending and coordinating charity and networking events there.
Most recently I served as Elections Director of Commerce Twp. and as a consultant on the Art is For Everyone/DIA Millage Campaign.
You have an interesting first and last name. Explain their origin/ethnicity:
Gitschlag: My name is a family name. It’s a German name. My father and great grandfather are also August Gitschlag, but we have different middle names, so there is no Jr. or III involved.
What do you like about Hamtramck? Favorite places to hang out?
Gitschlag: I love the urban density and affordability of Hamtramck. You have access to all walks of life, delicious fresh foods and great live entertainment.
While I am partial to Whiskey In The Jar, I love the walkability of Hamtramck, and the fact that you can be anywhere in a few minutes.
How long is your contract for?
Gitschlag: I have a two year contract.
Explain some of your job duties:
Gitschlag: The Clerk’s Office is responsible for all elections in Hamtramck.
In addition we are the official keeper of records for the City, and we handle commercial business licensing. In addition the Clerk is responsible for preparing the agendas and keeping the minutes of all City Council meetings.
The nature of the Clerk’s Office makes us a central location for information and trouble shooting for residents, so we work very closely with Public Services, City Council and the City Manager’s Office to provide the best possible customer service.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Gitschlag: When it is busy it is BUSY. During election season I will put in 10 to 16 hour days routinely to make certain everything is ready.
Election law changes all the time, and you have to keep up, making it a challenge to keep a routine from cycle to cycle. Being able to accomplish the task at hand while dealing with random issues that pop up can be frustrating, but it also means work is never boring!
Any pet peeves?
Gitschlag: “That’s not how we’ve always done it.”
I hear that an awful lot
Gitschlag: I am a big sports fan, especially Tiger baseball and MSU football and basketball. I enjoy golf, tennis and I have been playing softball on Belle Isle for 19 years now.
Any immediate changes coming to your office?
Gitschlag: We already revamped the election inspector and inspector training programs. We already recycled over 20 banker boxes of waste — old paper of no consequence — freeing up space to consolidate the Clerk’s Office from three rooms to two. In the short-term, we have had approval to proceed with digitizing all city records back to 1998, and install Optical Character Recognition software to our existing records. This is fantastic because it allows a fully searchable database.
As it stands now, if I need to find a copy of a document, unless the pertinent information is in the title (and everyone names documents differently) you may never find it, even if it has been there all along.
Any long-term plans?
Gitschlag: In the long term I want to obtain more permanent multi-lingual signage and municipal information for my office and elections.
We are of course handcuffed by finances, but the more information we can get out in Bengali, Arabic, Bosnian, Polish and Ukrainian, the less confusion there is in the community. My office is always the first stop for anyone who is confused, so let’s work to nip that in the bud.