"The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree" was one of John’s dad’s favorite sayings and he reminded us of it often. Poppa John used it mostly as it pertained to family life. It can definitely fit with other things, too
This week as I was thinking about the No. 1 thing I had to tell you, this phrase kept coming to mind and you will understand why at the end of our story.
As I started thinking more about the last three months, I realized that Poppa’s phrase directly relates to something else that is near and dear to my heart.
There is a group of people that you probably think you know what they do each day, but like me before I was elected to the position of Town Clerk, I really had no idea.
Our town and city clerks, and our tax collectors too, are a unique, passionate, often a little misunderstood group of very humble servants to their communities. Wonderful residents know we are responsible for car registrations, dog registrations, elections, taxes, vital records, marriages and the records of our towns.
It really is a big responsibility. The apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree with all of us, because in many ways we all have to be very similar to hold these positions.
First and foremost, we love our communities and the people we serve.
What I think has gone a little unnoticed is that your clerks and their entire team have been in your town halls and working just about every day since this worldwide pandemic started!
As I look back, I can hardly believe it myself! Our governor deemed us essential, which really meant a lot to us, but with that it required us to take on many risks and added responsibilities that I bet most people had no idea about. How could they?
While many other very important jobs have been able to work from home, your clerk’s office may be closed to the public as far as walking in your town or city hall, but if you checked everyday over the last weeks, it’s your clerks and their amazing staff who have been in the building and honestly keeping your town and city running financially.
No matter what is going on outside with viruses and in some areas even very scary protests, cars must be registered, dogs have to be licensed and elections must go on.
The difficult part is that we had to come up with a new normal for doing all of this and quickly to get these things done for our residents and community. In large towns and cities, millions of dollars is collected because of all of this work going on behind the scenes.
We must remember to that it is much easier to process new cars, and so many things when the person that needs us is right in front of us. Now we have moved to dropboxes, usually over a 100 calls an hour often more, and even having residents knock on back doors, meeting outside in parking lots, and in Derry using a drive-up window to get these necessary things done.
The other side, which I must tell you as the vice-president of our state Association of Town and City Clerks, all of these offices are putting in more hours than ever before just trying to get close to caught up to serve the people they love. When they read on Facebook pages, “Well they have been closed,” “I didn’t get this or that back," on and on and it hurts, it just does.
The good news though is for each one of those comments, we have gotten others saying, “Hey, thank you, we appreciate you being there!” The little thank you notes can make your clerk’s offices day too.
Another part is that we are definitely not first responders, but we have taken great risk throughout these last three months. Our offices don’t have the protective gear, training and protection, but they have been handling mail, opening doors to help those with extenuating circumstances and many other things.
Honestly, it has been scary at times. I know working from home can be tough, too, but it is nice to be able to stay safe, stay in your comfy clothing, maybe put a load of wash in, work outside on a deck and, most importantly, have no exposure to this virus. Remember, our exposure becomes our family’s exposure too.
I’m hoping our story this week will bring awareness to some other unsung heroes behind the scene that have gone unnoticed. Please help us spread the good word about your town clerks/tax collectors offices throughout the state.
Now going along with our story title this week, I have to tell you this. My intent for many weeks has been to give a shout out to our post offices too! Everyday somewhere between 5:30 and 6 p.m., my last task of the day is to bring daily work we have processed during the day to the post office. We do this so our residents will get their registrations and other things a little faster.
Well, each day after 5 p.m. when the office is closed, I head, pretty tired at this point, to our post office. I ring the bell for special help after hours. Remember they are trying to process the day’s mail in the back and get home to their families too.
Just about every time through this new normal, the most beautiful “I’m so glad to see you smile” welcomes me, asks how I am and never even gives a hint that she has had an equally long day as mine.
One day it was well after 6 p.m., and the woman, named Barbara, still answered the door with that heartwarming smile. Finally, I asked what her last name was so that I could tell you about her.
Paul said, “Her last name is LaFlamme, her son owns a towing business in town.” Well, dear goodness, I should have known! I had no idea that this wonderful angel Barbara who brightens so many of my long days was the mother of Doug LaFlamme of LaFlamme’s Towing!
In our office Doug also makes us smile, is always patient and grateful for our help, and I personally know he and his family have helped so many people behind the scenes through the years.
God bless good people like these and all of our town and city clerks, tax collectors, and their amazing teams of assistants.
The apples really don’t fall from the trees … Poppa was right.
Sherry Farrell is Londonderry Town Clerk and a longtime resident of New Hampshire.