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Council Clerk, a Mother of 7, Has to Care for 15 Adults, Too

November 01, 1987|SUSAN SEAGER | United Press International

At home, she is the mother of seven children. At work, she is the patient guide to 15 demanding adults who happen to be members of the Los Angeles City Council.

She is Dian Titus, the clerk who sometimes seems to hold the council's meetings together.

Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday for nearly three years Titus has been there to patiently and concisely explain to council members the often-complicated ordinances and procedures they must follow.

She must write down their frequently rambling, confused motions, dictated off the cuff, then make sense of them and read them back within seconds.

And when council members are too busy talking and joking among themselves to pay attention to the homeowners, bowling alley owners and others who testify before them--a common sight--she is usually the only city official whose face is turned directly toward the speakers, listening attentively and taking notes.

When the meetings end, she retires to her desk in the city clerk's office to transcribe her notes.

Ever Since High School

Titus, 40, has been working for the city since she graduated from high school in 1964.

A self-effacing, soft-spoken woman, she has taken classes at Los Angeles City College and Chaffey College, passed a series of civil service exams and worked her way up from an entry-level post of clerk-stenographer to the high-pressure job of the council's "minute clerk."

Unlike the council members she serves, Titus is publicity-shy, and protested strongly when asked to answer questions for a story about her.

"I just would rather do my job and not draw any attention to myself," she said.

Council President John Ferraro believes Titus deserves recognition.

"I am very impressed with her," he said. "She never gets rattled. Sometimes the council members come at you from all directions, and it gets real tough.

"You're sitting on a hot seat and you've got to keep the meeting going."

Sometimes, the council makes a procedural mistake or misconstrues the meaning of one of its votes.

Titus usually interjects: "Excuse me, Mr. President, that was a vote on the committee report. Did you want a vote on the ordinance?"

For news reporters and the public, Titus is a reliable source on how individual council members voted on the approximately 50 items they consider each day and a reliable interpreter of what the council's actions really mean.

"It's just common sense," she says, making light of the difficult task. "I have a lot of that."

Titus also is usually the only person sitting at the head of the council chambers who looks directly at people who stand up before the microphone to talk to the council.

"I think they deserve the courtesy of being listened to," Titus said.

Titus, who draws a salary of about $43,000 a year, lives in Chino with her husband, Art, and their seven children, ages 9 to 21. It's a two-hour commute each way, her job is a grind and motherhood has its frustrations, but she doesn't see herself as a "supermom."

"Once you start working out of high school, like I did, you get used to it," she said. As for having seven children, she said the older ones help out by taking care of the younger ones.

Titus has held many jobs at City Hall, ranging from secretary in the mayor's office to assistant to the Board of Public Works.

She said she likes her job as the council's clerk and has no plans to keep moving up the civil service ladder--for now at least.

"I guess the only thing I don't like is the long meetings," she said. "It's hard to sit still that long."

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