Pettijohn grew up in Malibu as part of a family that goes back six decades in the area
If you’ve attended any Malibu City Council meetings in the last five years, you may have noticed City Clerk Kelsey Pettijohn. And since meetings have been held virtually for the past three years, viewers may have taken more notice of Pettijohn’s role in helping to facilitate the proceedings.
The young Malibu woman first started working for the City Clerk’s office during the 2016 election “to help out during the busy season.” She soon discovered, “I really loved the work and our team in Malibu so I just never left.” Pettijohn was officially appointed the deputy city clerk in 2017. She became city clerk in 2021.
The Malibu local attended California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2015 “and then I found my path towards public service and really in Malibu specifically starting with that 2016 election.”
Pettijohn was raised in Malibu, where her family goes back six decades. Her grandparents moved to Malibu in the 1960s to raise their children “by the beach.” Pettijohn says her parents wanted to do the same for her and her brother. She attended Point Dume Marine Science School, now renamed Malibu Elementary, then Malibu Middle, and Malibu High School.
Working for the city she’s called home her entire life may have given Pettijohn an insider’s perspective on how things work in Malibu.
“It definitely gives you an advantage day one starting out. At the very beginning you kind of have a leg up because you know a lot about the community and its values and also the stories about Malibu and how we became a city and what that real drive was for local control,” she said. “For me it was helpful. My family’s been in Malibu for a very long time so, I already knew things that would concern people in Malibu. The legend of incorporation is that we incorporated to prevent a sewer system because that meant we’d have local control. When issues like that come up, it’s helpful to know the history of Malibu.”
Pettijohn said there are aspects of the job the public isn’t fully aware of.
“It is a fairly unknown position,” she stated. “I’m the city’s elections official, records manager, and compliance officer for federal, state, and local statutes like the Brown Act and the Public Records Act. This puts me in a position to keep track of the records and the history of the city and the council and to help the public. I help the public participate in council meetings, access the city’s records, and even run for City Council.”
Pettijohn has attended every City Council meeting since being hired in 2017. Some of those meetings can last for hours.
“The interesting part is we never know,” she said. “It’s a chance for the council and the public to interact and make decisions for the city. We might have some idea; we set an agenda, but we don’t know what the public’s going to bring to it, and that’s really the point — to facilitate that public interaction and learn what their concerns are, what new issues are coming up in the community, and that’s the part where we try to be flexible and ready to accommodate anything we can.”
The longest council meeting she ever attended started at 6:30 p.m., finally adjourning at the wee hour of 2:15 a.m.
“We prepare for anything that’s going to happen,” Pettijohn said. “Our job for however many hours it is is to just make the meeting happen.”
Pettijohn says she loves working for the community she grew up in.
“I love the people I work with. We have a really great team working for the city and I love working with the public,” she said. “We get to build relationships in such a small town and help people and see the outcome of that help and see what they’re able to accomplish for their community.”
In her spare time, Pettijohn bakes and can make balloon animals, a skill she picked up in an assignment from her fifth-grade teacher at PDMSS, Ms. Didion.
Pettijohn summed up her job of connecting the public to the city.
“If anyone wants to be more involved and doesn’t know how, give the City Clerk’s office a call,” she said. “It’s central to a lot of access to local government; we know about all the meetings going on that you can get involved in, all the major issues. We can start getting people records [or] information if you’re looking to get involved. It’s a good first step. All of our departments love to help, but my role is all about public access. I’m a good person to call.”
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