Success stories

How Buckeye, AZ Reduced Request and Agenda Times Despite Explosive Growth

50% staff time saved
Over 50% reduction in meeting packet creation time (2 weeks vs. 5 weeks)
50% processing time saved
Record request processing time nearly cut in half (8 days vs. over 15)
2x records requests handled
Handling nearly twice as many monthly records requests (105 in 2022 vs. 64 in 2020)
Digital Tools to Meet the Needs of Rapid Growth
An office of four clerks may seem like a small staff for any city. But when that city has been named the “Fastest Growing City in the Country” twice in the last five years, managing the increased demands that come with a larger population while maintaining a small staff requires a proper mindset and the right tools for the job. The Buckeye, Arizona Clerk’s Office not only meets the needs of their communities but is finding new efficiencies and time-savings thanks to GovQA and govMeetings.
“[govMeetings] just goes above and beyond… It just looks better. It’s more user-friendly, it’s easier, it’s faster.”
Summer Stewart

Outgrowing Paper Solutions

While sudden growth can catch some local government agencies off guard, others seize the opportunity to meet the needs of the increasing numbers and needs of the communities they serve. The westernmost suburb of Phoenix, Buckeye, Arizona spans nearly 670 square miles and, since officially being designated a city in 2014, has been the fastest-growing city in America twice in the last five years.

“It’s not just population,” said Summer Stewart, Buckeye’s Deputy City Clerk. “We’re having a lot of warehouses, retail, and different companies and developers coming in. Buckeye is huge. It’s bigger than the city of Phoenix, actually.”

Combining growth with a geographically dispersed populace can present challenges for governments looking to best serve all the members of their community.

“It can be very far,” said Liz Camacho, Records Administrator and ADA Coordinator. “The need for a person to have to come all the way down here and fill out a public record request or even to obtain a copy of a packet that’s too big to email. That could be problematic.”

“Since we were such a small little sleepy community, we’re now having development in every single corner,” she continued.

“We’re getting a lot of requests for infrastructure and development agreements and all the other things that would determine how the land can be used and the different things that are available for our developers.”

Despite Buckeye’s rapid growth, Stewart and Camacho represent half of the city’s clerk’s office staff (which Camacho calls “small but mighty”). With only four employees in the office, handling the increase in public records requests – including those for fire, police, ADA-related requests, and public meetings agendas – requires not just dedication to the work, but an efficiency-driven mindset, said Stewart.

“Most departments in the city, but ours especially, are committed to innovation and forward thinking,” she added.

“Those efficiencies for our customers are not just our residents, but our developers and anybody coming into the development community. We’re committed to the public and making this the best place to live, work, and play.”

But for Buckeye’s clerk’s office, the amount of work far outweighed any play. Like many communities, the Buckeye team struggled with a paper process that required request forms be filled out in-person in the clerk’s office, then manually scanned and emailed to departments before being printed and stored in a binder for state-mandated record retention.

“We were always chasing something,” said Camacho. “It was very time-consuming and tedious. If I was out of the office for a week, there wasn’t any follow-up. There wasn’t automated messaging or a place where somebody could go and see exactly what had transpired, because nobody else had access to my email. So that didn’t even really work for us.”

For Stewart, the paper process also required long lead times for preparing agendas and packets of information for public meetings.

“We regularly had to plan five weeks ahead of time so that staff liaisons would have everything ready to go, get that to approvers, and get the paper returned to us,” she said. “Then we could start our agendas.”


Replacing Manual Process with Automation

Leveraging the power of digital solutions presented a way to scale the Buckeye team’s work to meet the growing demands of their community. While Stewart had used a digital tool to help with agenda preparation previously, the impact was leaving much to be desired and often creating new difficulties.

“For some reason, the workflow with preparing meeting packets presented a lot of problems for us,” she said. “When I came on, they had actually gone away from that solution and went back to a manual paper process.”

When that tool announced a planned sundowning, Stewart saw the opportunity to consider a renewed attempt at digital efficiency. That’s when she investigated Granicus’ govMeetings agenda and meeting management tool.

“What we had was fine and worked as a great transition for people who were going from a paper process,” she said.

“[govMeetings] just goes above and beyond, though. It just looks better. It’s more user-friendly, it’s easier, it’s faster.”

That desire to find efficiencies in an otherwise tedious and manual process also appealed to Camacho when it came to dealing with records requests.

“It really became an initiative in our city to evolve our processes and streamline the way that we work,” she said.

When considering digital solutions, Granicus’ GovQA stood out not only because of the powerful features it offered, but also because of the community of users.

“With GovQA, we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel,” said Camacho.

“Our facilitator was able to provide a lot of best practices from other municipalities, other agencies, whether in Arizona or in other states. They were able to show us what others had done to see if those things met our needs. We didn’t have to sit there and break our heads trying to come up with the solution where somebody might have already implemented something very similar to what we needed. We could just make tiny little tweaks.”


A Digital Evolution in Process and Mindset

As Buckeye’s growth continues, the number of records requests increase, and the importance of public meetings becomes even more vital. So perhaps one of the strongest outcomes of the digital transformation within the Clerk’s Office is the one thing that hasn’t grown: the number of staff.

However, thanks in part to GovQA and govMeetings, both Camacho and Stewart said that the time savings from digital streamlining does more than keep staff numbers down. It opens opportunities to pursue other projects that meet the city’s growing demands.

“We’ve taken the meeting approval process from five weeks down to two,” said Stewart. “It’s given us more time to complete our other duties, but also to look for other solutions that are going to help us. We are one of the first cities in the state of Arizona that are doing online notarizations because we had the time to really look into it after the state passed a law allowing it.”

“We’re completely committed to going away from paper,” she added.

Camacho has seen similar reductions in process times after moving to GovQA. While the average monthly number of requests has almost doubled since 2020 to 105 per month, GovQA’s automation helps process requests in just over nine days on average, a significant reduction from a target of 15 days.

“It improved the communication and I think there’s a better understanding of our processes, at least for the public records request process,” she said.

“There’s also a big accountability aspect of it that was improved when we implemented this. Since the system has so much functionality and automatic or automated reminders, we’re also able to send reminders directly from the platform. Everything is 100% auditable, which allows us to be more transparent and really push that throughout the city as well with our customers.“

Their success even allows for the team to work across agencies within the city to show the power that digital tools can bring to other departments. Camacho has used GovQA to educate the police department about online records requests and help them better understand how the tool can make some of their processes easier.

“I gave them a quick demonstration of the redaction tool, what I feel is one of the best features,” she said. “The shared collaboration versus having to go back and forth between two separate attachments in an email or two separate emails is a great feature. They were impressed. I’m hoping that they go with it. I think it’s a great tool to have.”

Stewart noted that while much of the impact from their digital evolution has been felt internally, the flexibility the tools provide for the community can’t be overlooked.

“We’ve had fewer questions from the public on where to find things or when it’s going to be posted,”

she said. “It’s just all clearer. And combining that with a website redesigned to be more public friendly, we rarely get requests from the public for agendas based on an inability to find agendas or minutes. That means they’re finding information directly.”

That level of transparency is the key to a positive relationship with a community that continues to grow, added Camacho.

“Our office has always been about transparency and efficiency, being that we’re such a small group,” she said.

“It’s quickly evolving to become more electronic, more accessible at the touch of the fingertip type of government. All these programs and all these processes that we have been using through Granicus have really helped us enhance our ability to be able to meet those goals.”

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