Whether it’s a city park, a neighborhood or the new Chick-fil-A, every major project in Keller for the last four decades passed by Sheila Stephens’ desk.
Chances are that project required approval at one of the 1,181 City Council meetings she presided over as city secretary.
And no doubt she knows the real story behind every one of them.
“She knows why we did it, where we did it, how come and what’s the history. She’s just the walking history of Keller,” says Carolyn Nevins, director of human resources for the city of Keller. “No one here has that many years. A lot of history just walked out the door when she left.”
Now, Keller’s elected officials, staff and residents are forging a new future without Stephens at the city secretary post. She retired in December after 44 years with Keller.
“I want to travel and I want to spend more time with my grandchildren,” Stephens said at a retirement ceremony in February. “I don’t miss the meetings but I do miss the people. I feel blessed that I got to work here as long as I did.”
Keller was her first and only job,, starting when she was just 18 years old. First, she worked in the water department but within a few years worked her way to the city secretary post.
She worked with 12 mayors, dozens of council members and 12 city managers, most of which now consider her a friend.
City secretaries from other cities would call Stephens for advice knowing that Keller went through some real growing pains, several remarked. Through all the political firestorms, Stephens earned a reputation as an impartial and constant professional to people on both sides of the issue.
“You are the standard of public excellence,” says Keller City Manager Mark Hafner.
Former Mayor Pat McGrail adds “Sheila is Keller. No matter what, it was always Sheila who had the answer.”
Former City Councilman Doug Miller credits Stephens for her decades of dedication to the city and preserving its history. In fact, she contributed her own family photos to the history wall upstairs at Town Hall.
“That’s a testament of Sheila. This town would not be the town we are without her,” Miller says. “I’m privileged to call her my friend.”
• Stephens starting working for the city when the population of Keller was 1,500
• Over 39 years, she recorded minutes for 1,181 city council meetings
• Oversaw 76 elections, including 12 between the years of 1993 - 1995
• Fulfilled over 2,960 open records requests
• Registered 2,900 deaths and more than 100 births (which is impressive for a city without a hospital)