Elizabeth DelTorto and Holly Marios at the Town Clerk’s office at the Colonie Town Hall. Jim Franco/Spotlight News
COLONIE — “It’s been a good run,” said Elizabeth DelTorto from her desk in the town clerk’s office, where she has worked for the last 20 years.
That run will come to an end on Dec. 31 when the retirement DelTorto announced months ago kicks in and a new clerk takes office.
“I’ve gotten to work with wonderful people and it’s been fun. They’ve made it easy,” she said the Catholic Central High graduate and staunch Republican who moved to Colonie from Troy as a child. “I feel very blessed. I’ve had a great career and I’ve had a job I have loved every minute of for 20 years.”
The office handles things like marriage and death certificates, dog and sport licenses, is the keeper of all official town documents and is charged with maintaining a permanent record of all Town Board meetings and public hearings. When she was first hired as deputy town clerk in 1996, they were still using carbon paper and typewriters and the office was still responsible for tallying election results.
“Things have changed over the years and it’s a lot more efficient now,” she said of what can be an overwhelming amount of paperwork for a town of more than 80,000.
Technology may have changed the behind the scenes workings of the office over the past two decades but employees there, under DelTorto, still put customer service first.
“Her motto was ‘always put resident first’ and make sure they have the best quality of service possible,” said Holly Marios, the clerical aid who came in about the same time as DelTorto. “She is more than my boss. She is my friend and I will miss her very much.”
DelTorto said if she were to write a book, it would be about issuing marriage licenses. Sometimes, she said, a young couple will come in holding hands with love in their eyes and a family in their future. Other times, she said, an older man will come in, on his second or third marriage, and is wondering if he can get a fishing license too.
“Generally, when people come here they are happy. They are getting married, they are getting a dog, they are going to the park,” she said. “It’s always fun when I have to point them down the hall to my dear friend [Receiver of Taxes] Michelle Zilgme.”
Time for governing
DelTorto is a lifelong Republican and lists meeting Pres. Ronald Reagan at the party’s 1984 convention as a political highlight. She was the executive director of the state Republican Party from 1989 to 1991 when Patrick Barrett was chair and before that worked for the Republican controlled state Senate under Majority Leader Warren Anderson.
Before taking the position in the clerk’s office, she worked in the administration of Gov. George Pataki, a Republican in an otherwise very blue state.
“We like to think of those lean years as a time when we paved the way for Gov. Pataki,” she said with a grin.
Politics at all levels can be a nasty game and she said as of late it’s gotten worse and more petty.
“It’s a very different time now,” she said. “When I think back to when I wasworking for the Senate, and Sen. Anderson was the majority leader and Sen. Ohrenstein was minority leader, they worked together as gentlemen. They certainly had different philosophies, but they approached it as ‘what’s best for the state’ and I don’t see a lot of that anymore.”
When she was elected in 1997 and took office in 1998, Colonie was still the bastion of Republican strength in a county dominated by the Democratic Party. All that changed when Paula Mahan upset incumbent Mary Brizell and was elected supervisor.
But, despite party loyalties, she works well with Mahan and others across the political aisle.
“I have friends in both parties and I’m happy about that,” she said. “As Republican as I am there is no Republican way to sell a marriage license just like there is not Democratic way to fill a pot hole. At this level there is no real ideology. We are here to get a job done and I think Paula takes that stance too.”
Even after the Democrats took over the town, DelTorto said they never messed with her budget or her office.
“It certainly has been a pleasure to work with Liz DelTorto over the past ten years,” said Supervisor Paula Mahan. “I’m sure our residents will miss her smile as they approach the desk in the Town Clerk’s Office. Liz always goes above and beyond to provide the best service possible to everyone. Although I will miss Liz greatly, I am very happy for her as she retires and I wish her all the best in her next chapter.”
The Democrats rarely ran a serious opponent against DelTorto but this year, with an open seat, there was a contested race between Republican Julie Gansle and Democrat Alison McLean Lane. DelTorto announced her retirement in March- three months before nominating petitions hit the streets – so both parties had a chance to field legitimate candidates and run valid campaigns.
“Julie Gansle will be a fabulous town clerk,” DelTorto said. “She is a lovely person and is approachable and friendly and she will do well by the residents. As you can imagine, I care very deeply about this office and all of my coworkers so it’s good to turn it over and know it will be in good hands.”
Time for retirement
DelTorto said she has no grand plans as she opens the next chapter in her life, but will take some courses at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard Square.
She isn’t sure what classes but they will likely be in domestic and international governmental policy and not for any formal credits but for an inherent and lifelong love of learning.
She also plans to stay involved in the Republican Party politics at whatever level she can be helpful and she will volunteer more at her church.
Her mother lives about a half mile away from her and she turns 93 in January so DelTorto said she will too spend some more time with her — if her mother can squeeze her in once in a while.
“I told my mom I was going to retire at the end of the year and she said ‘Elizabeth, I have a schedule I like to keep and you will have to find your own’ and I said: ‘well, I guess I will have to do that.’
“I know I am going to enjoy that first snow storm when I don’t have to leave the house and drive to Town Hall.”