MIDDLEPORT – Politics being fickle, mayors and supervisors may come and go on a fairly frequent basis. But communities often rely on their village and town clerks for continuity.
It’s no different in Royalton, a rural community of 7,660 residents, where Marie L. Little has worked for five different town supervisors in her 11 years as town clerk.
Little was surprised – and honored – to be named the top town clerk for the entire state this spring by her peers in the more than 900 towns throughout New York.
But those who know her were not surprised at all.
“I think Marie’s very deserving of this award because she’s very good at her job and very active in the community,” said Somerset Clerk Rebecca “Becky” Connelly. “She’s been picked by her peers for this. There are 932 towns in the state and 10 districts. Each district nominates one clerk that they feel is deserving and from those a state clerk is chosen – so this is a huge honor.”
Connelly, who has known Little since 2002 and has served as a mentor to her, knows how much this award means. She was named top clerk in the state herself in 2003, while Newfane’s Mildred “Mickey” Kramp was the most recent town clerk in Niagara County to earn the honor two years ago.
“Marie does a really great job,” Royalton Supervisor Jennifer Bieber said. “If you need help, she’s the one to call. I’ve known her a long time – I’ve known her since before Town Hall because we served on a church committee together years ago. She’s very community-minded. She has given Royalton a nice little star next to our name with this award that she’s received.”
Little recently took a few moments out of her busy schedule at Town Hall to speak about the award, her job and special challenges and victories she and her family have experienced.
How long have you worked at Royalton Town Hall?
I started as clerk on April 1, 2002. Before that, I was a customer service supervisor at Perry’s Ice Cream in Akron. I was there a total of 10 years.
You earned the top state award for a position that some historically hold 20 or 30 years or more and yet you’ve ‘only’ been at it about 10 years. What did you think of this award?
It was a complete and total surprise. At the opening ceremonies of our conference in Buffalo (April 28-May 1), I found out I was District 10 Clerk of the Year. District 10 includes Niagara, Erie, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties. I didn’t really give it another thought. I thought it was just such an honor to be nominated for District 10 clerk.
You’re not even eligible for this award unless you have a minimum of 10 years of service. And, I was nominated by every town clerk in Niagara County, as well as by every member of my Town Board. It was such a huge honor. There’s really no greater honor than to be recognized and chosen by your peers.
What was that evening like for you?
There were 30 people who came to Buffalo to surprise me. My husband, Scott, our daughter, Kristina, and her husband, Nick Groff, my mother, my brother and his wife, and our daughter-in-law, Lindsey. Our son, Patrick, is serving in Afghanistan and he Skyped in for this. He’s with the New York State International Guard’s 107th Air Reserve Wing.
My entire Town Board was there, our town attorney, deputy clerks, deputy county clerk and her husband, my best friend and her husband and daughter. They were all hidden in a separate room and surprised me.
There’s an interesting story about your son, Patrick, as he’s currently serving in Afghanistan. Tell me about it.
He and Cierra Edwards, who’s from Niagara Falls and stationed there with him and the 107th, started a Relay for Life there for the American Cancer Society at the same time we were doing ours here. Their goal was to raise $5,000 and when I last checked, they had raised $7,127.
Cierra’s mother, Margie Lengen, works on the committee for the Relay for Life in Niagara Falls and my daughter, Kristina, is special events manager for the American Cancer Society.
Patrick and Cierra didn’t know about this tie until after they started their Relay for Life there. They did it to help Niagara Falls and to give themselves something else to focus on while they’re there.
They’ve raised the majority of their money online and through word of mouth. We are very proud of Patrick.
Kristina had been working with the Relay for Life for many years as a volunteer, but she was hired full time by the American Cancer Society shortly after I was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010.
How are you doing now?
I am doing great, actually. I am in remission and I plan on staying that way. I’m involved in a clinical trial with Roswell Park Cancer Institute. We’re so blessed to have them right here. I truly believe that if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be alive.
I was out a little bit (during treatment), but I stayed very active. The board was very good.
They helped me get my laptop set up so that I could access the server here at Town Hall, and I kept in contact every day. I was even able to run reports from my hospital bed at Roswell to the printer at Town Hall when we had an audit, so I stayed as involved as I could.
Supervisors and town boards change, but clerks often seem to remain the constant. What’s the toughest part of your job?
It’s just a matter of trying to acquaint everyone with the process we have here. Jennifer Bieber is the fifth supervisor I’ve worked with. I worked with Lloyd Westcott, Chad McHenry, Cal Rhoney, Dick Lange and now Jennifer.
The most difficult thing is just trying to keep all of the meeting minutes up to date. Just trying to keep track of everything.
And what’s the best part of your job?
Working with all of the residents and interacting with them on a daily basis.
Know a Niagara County resident who’d make an interesting question-and-answer column? Write to: Niagara Weekend Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.