SORRENTO — About 12 years into her career with the Town of Sorrento, Esther Clement’s workspace changed dramatically.
She started in 1985 as tax collector, adding town clerk to her titles in 1986.
“It wasn’t until 1997 that we had a town office,” said Clement, who is planning to retire after 34 years. “Before that it was out of my kitchen and part of my living room.”
“It took over the house,” quipped her husband, Dwayne.
In 1997, Clement became town treasurer. Because some town records, including tax maps, were stored at the fire hall, it was a cumbersome process when a citizen wanted to look at them. Town documents needed to be more accessible, she said.
Having the town hall freed up her living space and, in many ways, made her work easier. But now, she said, she needs to take a step back.
“I’m getting tired. I need a break,” she said.
She expects the break to be bittersweet.
“Sometimes when I talk about leaving, it’s like leaving family,” said Clement, who will be 66 on Aug. 16.
She hasn’t yet decided when her last day will be, though she anticipates it will be in mid-September, when the summer rush is over.
Although she plans to completely separate herself from her work for awhile, she has already decided she wants to stay involved in some way, probably by serving on a committee.
“I think it’s hard to make a complete break, especially when you put so many years into it,” she said.
Being less involved than she is now will give her and her husband, who already is retired, time to travel within the state.
“There are many, many places in Maine I have not seen,” she said.
Among them are Baker Island and Quoddy Head lighthouses, where her husband’s father served as lightkeeper in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Dwayne Clement said he is eager to show his wife where he lived as a child.
Even after she retires, her connection with the town will remain strong — the younger of her two grown sons, Craig, is a selectman.
Her father served with the town fire department and both an uncle and brother served as selectmen. A sister-in-law previously served as treasurer.
Clement said she became interested in working for the town when her predecessor was preparing to retire and looking for a replacement.
“I thought, well I’ll give it a try. It stuck,” she said. “Really I’ve loved it.”
Clement describes herself as an introvert and said being a town employee has meant having to stretch herself into the often people-centered role.
It has helped her become more outgoing and it provided a great way to keep in touch with others.
“I could see everybody,” she said.
Clement is officially on duty for 28 to 30 hours a week but, then, there’s what she calls “homework” — things she takes home to work on and inquiries from townspeople who talk town business whenever they see her outside the office.
Homework has not been the biggest challenge, however. That honor goes to the state computer systems. Each state agency with which the town works has its own program.
“Sometimes they have problems with their computer program and it doesn’t work,” she said.
Soon, those challenges will belong to someone else. The town is advertising for a new employee, whose title will be administrative assistant.
Last September the selectmen changed the job description so that the person would no longer have to be a town resident. A qualified resident is still preferred, says an advertisement for applicants for the administrative assistant position.
In the ad, Selectman Rob Wilpan called Clement “our dear Esther,” adding, “We will all miss her and all she does for this town.”