The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Features

June 13, 2014

Birtell ready to tackle next chapter in her life

CLINTON — Today’s Amy Birtell is as straightforward as they come. Clinton molded her.

She didn’t mince her words when Clinton City Council members blamed the library’s governing board for the Lyons library branch closure in March, a self-described disheartening and frustrating casualty of 2014 budget cuts. Clinton’s Public Library director marched to the podium and pointed the finger right back:

“It was the council that approved the budget cut for us,” Birtell said.

“It’s an unfortunate thing,” she later added. “And I would hope in the future you would consider the services we offer and the things that we do for this community.”

She’s outspoken on her beliefs, too, serving as public ambassador for the library’s role in the city. More than once, she’s decried domestic violence — like when she encouraged Clinton County to continue funding the YWCA women’s shelter last year. Birtell has also publicly disclosed her own brushes with an abusive ex-husband.

“Amy is very honest, which is completely respectable,” said Jessica Kinser, close friend and Clinton city administrator. “She has a high level of integrity as well. If she sees something that needs to be changed, she’s going to change it.”

Kinser said she and Birtell bonded quickly when they were hired within weeks of each other in 2011. Kinser was Clinton’s finance director then, and describes her counterpart as “endlessly optimistic” and “innovative.”

She was unaware that a year prior, Birtell was not so outgoing. The mother of five was seeking sanctuary in a women’s shelter, the victim of something akin to introversion.

Instead, Kinser saw Birtell connecting a then-disjointed library system — no easy task with a department many viewed on the outskirts of city government.

“Prior to her starting, the library was very disconnected to the rest of the city organization,” Kinser said. “Since she’s been with the city, she’s been that very open, honest, positive, bubbly person... That’s the biggest piece that’s going to be missed.”

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