Brattleboro Town Clerk Anette Cappy sits behind the desk in her office at the Brattleboro Municipal Center. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro)
Brattleboro Town Clerk Anette Cappy sits behind the desk in her office at the Brattleboro Municipal Center. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro)
Saturday September 29, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- Brattleboro Town Clerk Annette Cappy has been named Town Clerk of the Year.

Cappy was recognized at the annual meeting of the Vermont Municipal Clerks' & Treasurers' Association annual meeting which was held Sept. 24 in Killington.

She received the award during the annual meeting and she said she had no idea she was even nominated.

"Town clerks all over the state work very hard," she said. "It was very humbling."

Cappy, 61, has been the Brattleboro Town Clerk for 25 years.

This is the first time she has been honored with this award.

She is a Brattleboro native, who graduated from St. Michael's High School in 1962.

Before working in town hall Cappy worked for the State of Vermont in what was then called the Department of Social Welfare.

She said she was pretty happy doing that job when she found out that the then-Brattleboro Town Clerk, Patricia Brosnahan, would be leaving.

She applied, she said, on a whim.

"It was impulsive," she said. "And it turned out to be the best thing I ever did."

In winning the award, Cappy was recognized for the work she has done over the years across the state.

She is chairwoman of the Windham County Municipal Clerks and Treasurers group, and has served on the executive board for the New England Association of City and Town Clerks, of which she is still a member.

She has also served on the Vermont Commission on Democracy, the Secretary of State's Clerk's Advisory Board and the Federal Elections Commission Standards Board.

While she says she loves the day-to-day work of meeting people who come through Town Hall and helping them with the records they are looking for, Cappy has also found herself in the center of historic and news worthy events.

Cappy was a strong supporter of civil unions when the state was debating the issue.

She testified in Montpelier and says she was one of the few vocal supporters of civil unions among the state's town clerks.

When the civil union law passed, Cappy was the very first town clerk to open her office, at midnight, to perform the first civil union in the state for a gay couple.

Gov. Howard Dean later named her to the Vermont Civil Union Review Commission.

Cappy also found herself in the center of an international law enforcement issue when she contacted federal officials about what she thought were suspicious activities in the Brattleboro office.

Cappy was noticing a large number of marriages between Puerto Rican women and Brazilian men who were being led into Town Hall by the same person.

She noticed little affection between the couples, realized they did not even speak the same language and so she called the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Officers with INS discovered an international ring that was organizing the illegal marriages, and it was Cappy's phone call which led to the eventual arrests.

All the high-profile work aside, though, Cappy said she enjoys the work, and takes her role very seriously.

She said the elections, which she oversees, bring with them hours or preparation which the public is usually unaware of.

Just as a school teacher will mark his or her years by the school schedule, and a farmer by the seasons, Cappy said she measures her time as a town clerk by the elections.

Every March she has Representative Town Meeting and local elections, every two years there is a state and Congressional race, and every four years there is a presidential election.

She says she hopes to make it through this November's election, and then the 2016 presidential race, before she starts thinking about retiring.

Still, between the federal elections and historic issues, she says it's the people she works with, and gets to meet every day in Town Hall, that make it fun and worthwhile.

Each day is different and you never know who is going to walk in the door to ask about an historic record or do research on an interesting piece of property.

"When someone is looking for answers the town clerk is the person they come to see," she says. "We are the keepers of records. I am the good will ambassador for the town, and I like to be in that position."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.