Addison to honor town clerk for 40 years of service

ADDISON — On July 1, 1972, Addison Town Clerk Jane Grace first showed up for her new job with son Michael, then 2, in tow.
This Sept. 29, Michael and Grace’s other son, Christopher, who joined Michael as a fixture at the Addison clerk’s office in 1973, will be part of lunchtime crowd of at least 200 at the Addison Central School that will celebrate their clerk’s impending December retirement after 40-plus years.
Selectwoman Joy Pouliot — who said the 12:30 p.m. lunch on the 29th will be followed with a series of surprises for Grace during a program that will start about an hour later — is just one of many in Addison who want to send off their clerk in style.
“To know she’s been at the job for 40 years is just incredible,” said Pouliot, a major event organizer. “The amount of knowledge she has is incredible. She keeps me on my toes. I am very proud the town has had someone like her.”
Pride is also a word Pouliot — who said the lunch is now closed, but residents are welcome to come watch the program that follows — used to describe Grace.
“She is few and far between … She takes pride in her job and she takes pride in protecting the town,” Pouliot said. “I’ve learned a lot from her. We all have.”
Pouliot is far from the only Addison official to sing Grace’s praises.
“Jane is everything that’s right about small government. She’s detail-oriented,” said Jeff Kauffman, chairman of the town’s selectboard. “She’s represented Addison with pride and professionalism.”
Planning commission chairman Frank Galgano called her a treasure.
“She is a friend to many of us, and certainly a very helpful and loyal citizen and town clerk,” Galgano said. “Certainly we’re going to miss her, and I hope she’s going to do very well in her retirement … It certainly was a pleasure to work with her.”
If not for town officials’ accepting attitude way back when toward Michael and Christopher, who was born about 13 months into Grace’s tenure, Grace might well have taken another job.
“They never minded the boys being here,” Grace said, adding, “That was pretty important. I didn’t have to take them to daycare.”
The boys would come over at the end of the day at the nearby Addison Central School, play outside during the summers, and, she said, were treated well not only by the town but by office visitors.
“Everybody was saying hello to (Christopher) and Michael, and it just seemed to fit,” said Grace, who also has handled dispatching for the town’s fire department and for those from other area communities.
She is also proud of how her sons handled themselves: At first, the job remained part-time, and sometimes residents tracked their clerk down at home when they needed to take care of town business.
“People would come to the house for a dog license over the weekend … The boys had to learn how to answer the phone,” Grace said.
But a family-friendly environment doesn’t fully explain why Grace stayed long after her sons no longer needed supervision, and the job grew into a 40-hour-a-week career.
Like most clerks, Grace enjoyed the nature of the position.
“I love the interaction with people. I’m going to miss that, I think,” she said.
According to her assistant clerk of 27 years, Marilla Webb, Grace also had the other requirements needed to succeed in the job.
Webb said Grace made sure she understood the importance of proper record-keeping, for example.
“She’s always been very meticulous in taking care of the town’s business,” said Webb, who is expected to succeed Grace. “She taught me to do it right, that we have to think about things being like a time capsule. We need to think about 100 years from now. Is it going to make sense?”
Officials also still talk about when Grace was recuperating from potentially life-threatening emergency surgery this spring, the time of which coincided with busy Town Meeting Day issues, and Grace contacted Webb with instructions.
“She was in the hospital writing down what Marilla needed to do,” Galgano said. “Even when she was at her worst, she didn’t let the needs of the town go … That’s pretty remarkable.”
After 27 years of at least part-time work together, Webb said she wasn’t surprised by that display of dedication.
“She’s tough, she’s strong. That’s it. She puts the town first,” Webb said.
Webb also praises Grace’s fairness, and, unsurprisingly after so much time together in the tiny Addison clerk’s office, said Grace has been an excellent co-worker, even when they differ on an issue.
“We like each other. We’re kind of like family. Families get along. We respect each others’ opinions,” Webb said.
It’s not that disagreements are common, though.
“We do laugh because we’ve been together a long time now. Sometimes we almost finish each other’s sentences. People call and think we almost sound alike,” Webb said.
Their last month together will follow some time off for Grace, who will have follow-up surgery in November and miss much of that month while recuperating. She said she is doing well after the scare this spring, and is looking forward to helping Webb with the transition.
“I’ll try to get things in place for Marilla,” Grace said.
After that will come some volunteering, hiking, horse riding, landscaping and gardening, and spending more time with her husband, Phil, and her sons’ families.
“One of my goals is to clean out a lot of rooms in the house,” Grace said. “I’m sure we’re planning some trips. And of course we have two granddaughters. That will keep us busy.”
Before then comes the party next week.
“(We wanted) to show her that we really, truly appreciate everything she has done for the town,” Pouliot said. “Providing this celebration for her is not really enough to show her we appreciate her as much as we do.”
Nobody expects that will be the end of the town’s relationship with their longtime clerk. 
“We’re going to continue to see her and interact with her as a citizen and as a neighbor and as a friend,” Galgano said. “That’s a happy part of the situation.”
Grace, the longest-serving clerk in the county, admits to being a little uncertain about the fuss, but said she will try to take her husband’s advice to relax and enjoy the event.
“I didn’t feel I needed anything. I was just going to go away quietly,” she said. “I’m sure as soon as I start seeing people and reminiscing … I’ll feel more comfortable.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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