Saturday March 2, 2013

WINDHAM -- Thirty-two years ago when Carol Merritt took the job as Windham's town clerk, she asked former town clerk Harry Hall for advice.

"He said keep your ears and eyes open and your mouth shut," said Merritt. "I followed that advice for 32 years. Let people keep their business to themselves and don't talk about it."

Merritt said that's the kind of advice she would pass on to whomever is chosen on March 5 as Windham's next town clerk.

Peter Chamberlain and Alison Trowbridge have thrown their hats in the ring to fill the shoes Merritt is leaving behind at Town Hall.

Chamberlain, who is also running for town treasurer, has lived in Windham for nine years, after he retired as a public middle school teacher in Connecticut and his wife left her job in the banking industry.

"We've been coming up here since 1968," said Chamberlain.

His wife now works for the federal government and he is self-employed as a house painter.

Chamberlain has been on the town's Conservation Commission for eight years and regularly attends Selectboard meetings. He also is a member of the Windham Community Organization, which helps people in need.

"I've been a public servant for 35 years and I truly enjoyed it," he said. "I like working for people."

Even though he was a teacher for more than 35 years, his sideline as a house painter for more than 40 years means he is familiar with financial management, said Chamberlain.

"It's a common part-time job for teachers," he said.

He said it makes sense for the town clerk and town treasurer to be the same person because they are both part-time jobs and they bear on each other.

He said he also knows a lot of people in town because of his house painting business.

"I have painted for a lot of Windhamites, both inside and outside. And when you go to meetings and chicken barbecues you get to know people."

Chamberlain said he doesn't have an agenda he would like to implement if he is elected, but he would like to upgrade the technology in the town clerk's office.

He also would like to arrange the office's hours so it is open five days a week.

Alison Trowbridge, who is a massage therapist, has been a nine-year member of the School Board and the chairwoman of the town's Conservation Commission. She also represented the town when the Glebe Mountain wind project was under discussion.

She has been in Windham for 20 years. Her husband grew up in Brookline.

"I like working for the town and serving my neighbors," she said.

She admitted she will have a big learning curve if she is chosen as town clerk.

"I don't have that much knowledge of everything that goes on in the office," she said.

Like Chamberlain, she would like to update the technology of the office.

"But at the same time, I will keep providing the same personal and individual attention that Carrol was so good at doing," said Trowbridge.

She would like to change the hours of the office so that on certain days it is open later to allow for people who work all day to stop in.

"I'd like to adjust those hours to reflect that need."

As a massage therapist, Trowbridge said she has good people skills.

"I am definitely a people person and a team player," she said.

Mary McCoy, who has been serving as the interim town clerk, is running for town treasurer.

She was Merrit's assistant and said she has many years of financial experience.

"It's always been a part of other jobs I had," said McCoy, who has also been filling in as the Selectboard's secretary.

She was the executive director of three non-profit agencies for 15 years, in Washington, D.C., and in Cincinnati. She moved to Windham about 10 years ago because her husband is from town.

"We've known each other for a long time but we were just friends who lived thousands of miles apart," said McCoy. "About 11 years ago our paths crossed and I wound up here with him."

Currently, she and her husband run a small business and she does some grant writing.

McCoy said she likes performing financial management and believes the town treasurer position would be a good fit for her.

McCoy has also been a long-time contributor to Windham News & Notes and has been working to bring high-speed Internet to town.

The town treasurer handles the town's finances, writing checks, keeping track of payroll and purchase orders and also prepares government reports.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @ audette.reformer.