Town clerk looks forward to retirement

It began with a call at home, and it will end Jan. 1 as Town Clerk Kathleen Newkirk hands off the reins to her office and retires after 32 years working in Bethlehem Town Hall, more than half of them as town clerk.

She's served as clerk during the tenure of no fewer than seven supervisors, and before that worked as deputy town clerk, a stenographer in the Building Department and as a part time clerk for the Board of Appeals. She made the decision to run for town clerk when Carolyn Lyons announced she was retiring, and was elected in 1992.

Carol informed me she was not planning to run for reelection, so of course that made a decision for me next thing I know I was full time in the Town Clerk's office and running for election, she said.

Newkirk was first tapped for her shorthand skills in 1977. She had previously worked in the state Health Department.

The Town Clerk's office has been awarded 17 grants totaling over $275,000 during Newkirk's tenure, many of which deal with archival and preservation activities. The latest grant for the preservation of minute books from 1793 to 1928 is being held back by the state in the midst of the budget crisis, though.

Besides serving as the town's records officer and registrar of vital statistics, the town clerk issues licenses and various permits, provides notary service and compiles election information. A lot of the work is done away from the Town Clerk window at Town Hall.

"People have no clue as to the scope of the job. It's a varied job, and that's why it's never boring. You move from one thing to another so that it's always interesting," Newkirk said.

The town clerk must also coordinate with all town departments, as well as state and federal agencies, in the keeping of records and other matters. With the advent of the information and computing age, things have changed a great deal since Newkirk first took office.

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