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Starksboro treasurer retires after 32 years

CELINE COON

It used to be that if people wanted to talk to us they came in. That was the best part of my job, the social part.
— Celine Coon

STARKSBORO — Starksboro’s long-serving treasurer, Celine Coon, remembers moving to the town 43 years ago and seeing an article in the Addison Independent that referred to Starksboro as the fastest growing town in Addison County.
“I was expecting Starksboro to change dramatically,” Coon said.
But she’s grateful it hasn’t changed quite as much as was expected.
“I’m one of those people who likes the small-town feel. I think it’s one of the best things about living here.”
Nine years after moving to Starksboro, Coon was hired to work for the town, as its health officer. A few years later she became the assistant clerk/treasurer under Town Clerk Cheryl Estey, who is retiring on March 2 .
In 2001, Coon became the town treasurer. On Tuesday, she too will retire.
“When I first started working here we didn’t even print our own tax bills,” Coon recalled. “The state had the computers, so we drove a floppy disk up to Waterbury, printed out the bills, came back and mailed them out.”
Back then, a dot-matrix printer used to take 10-12 hours to print out Starksboro’s tax bills.
“Now, with a high-speed copier that’s connected wirelessly to every computer in the office, it takes less than a half-hour,” Coon said.
On the other hand, before all this time-saving technology, she felt people were more connected to each other than they are now, Coon said.
“It used to be that if people wanted to talk to us they came in,” she said. “That was the best part of my job, the social part.”
The pandemic has only served to disconnect people even more, she said.
“The hardest part of (working remotely) has been not coming in, getting the pulse of the community.”
Her job has not been without its odd moments, she said.
One time a town resident found a loose dog along the road but didn’t have time to take it to the animal shelter, so they dropped it off at the town office and asked us to deal with it, Coon recalled.
“You were caught off-guard by stuff like that sometimes,” she said. “But Cheryl is so understanding and kind, so people probably felt comfortable (relying on her in that way).”
Of all the changes to her job over the past 32 years, Coon is most grateful for the transition from paper to the QuickBooks accounting system.
“That software was a huge change,” she said. “We used to have these long green sheets, where you had to record everything by hand, then add everything up every month and every quarter. Then the federal government would send these tax books every January and you had to manually deduct taxes and Medicare and everything else from (town employee) checks.”
Coon was a little less excited about a more recent software change.
“Three years ago at town meeting they had a surplus and voted to devote some of that to getting a new accounting system. So here I was, an old dog with new tricks,” she recalled. “It has made the last few years extremely tricky. It has been a tremendous learning curve.”
At one point along that curve, Coon called the new software’s customer service line and during the phone call was told that she could expect to get comfortable with the software within three years.
“I told them I’d be done in three years, and they suggested I run for reelection,” she said with a laugh.
Coon’s least favorite part of the job was deadlines.
“Federal tax deadlines are unforgiving,” she said. “I’d have these quarterly reports and I’d put on my calendar when they were due. And then of course that day 10 people would come into the office to get copies of their tax bills, and suddenly I’d realize, ‘Oh, I have to get this done today.’”
But visitors to the town office always came first.
“People coming in always got priority over any of the other work we did,” she said.
It has helped that Coon has been surrounded by good people in the town office, she said.
“Support people make all the difference in the world.”
When Coon retires she plans to “travel, garden and live life to the fullest,” she said.
Still, she added, “I’m hoping (the town’s likely next treasurer) Amy McCormick will give me a call and say, ‘Hey, can you help me with this?’”
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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