WALLINGFORD — Town Clerk Barbara Thompson is retiring at the end of the week, and three other municipal administrative positions are either open or will be soon.
The town clerk heads the office that keeps the town's permanent records and vital statistics, such as birth and death certificates, and issues licenses, serves as an election official under direction from the state and is clerk of the Town Council.
Thompson, 59, has been town clerk for 13 years out of the last 15 years. She began in January 2006, when the town clerk was a political appointee the Town Council majority made every two years in the first meeting in January after an election.
“You would be very anxious waiting to know that you would be the town clerk,” Thompson, a Republican, said Friday. “If your party stayed in power and you were doing a good job, you obviously hoped that they would all support you and vote you back in.”
There was a two-year gap in Thompson’s run as town clerk when Democrat Barbara Kapi served in the position when control of the council shifted, but Thompson was reinstated in 2010 when the Republicans regained a majority and has remained since.
In 2017, a revision of the Town Charter stabilized the job by changing the position to a permanent hire. The position is not a union job but follows the managerial union contract.
The change in employment status didn't change her duties or how she did her job, Thompson said, although the town clerk’s supervisor became the mayor instead of the town council chairman.
The mayor decides whether to appoint an interim town clerk.
Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said Monday that the assistant town clerk, currently Deborah McKiernan, acts in the absence of the town clerk and that he assumed she would take over the duties of the town clerk until a replacement is instated.
Approached by council chairman
Thompson and her husband, Jerry Labriola Jr., moved from Wallingford to Old Saybrook about three and a half years ago. Thompson has two daughters, Sarah Thompson, 34, and Lindsey Thompson, 31, and two stepdaughters, Kristen Labriola, 33, and Jane Labriola, 31. Together, they have three grandsons who “will keep me busy,” Thompson said.
Thompson retires at an annual salary of $80,021, the top of the pay scale for town clerk. According to the job posting, a town clerk’s salary is between $62,542 to $80,021.
Thompson said she initially “had a hard time accepting the job of town clerk,” she said.
In November 2005, she was approached about becoming town clerk by then Town Council Chairman Robert F. Parisi and other town officials.
Thompson had served one term as Registrar of Voters from 2000 to 2002, and was working as a realtor while also the Wallingford Republican town chairwoman.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to come to the same place every day,” she said. “I wasn’t sure I could do the nine-to-five gig, and it took me a little while to make the decision. Finally I committed, and I’m actually very glad I did. It’s been a wonderful 13 years. It’s kind of funny how things turn out.”
Parisi, a Republican who served nearly four decades on the Town Council and as chairman for a total of 14 years, worked with Thompson for many years.
He said Monday he wanted to bring Thompson on as town clerk “because I knew she was extremely competent and I felt that if she has the job, we would not be looking over our shoulder. We’d be pretty well situated in that position. I had a lot of confidence in her, and I knew she was easy to work with. That’s basically why I wanted here there, and I wasn’t disappointed either.”
He added that Thompson always had a good rapport with the town councilors.
“She was always helpful, as far as I know, to everyone,” Parisi said, “and she was certainly helpful to me. She ran a good office. I didn’t get complaints about unfairness or anything. Whenever I stopped in there to talk to people, they were always smiling and happy and working. That’s all I wanted.”
Other upcoming retirements
Also leaving town employment are Scott Hanley, Government Access television manager, and Lynn Wolff, Program Planning office secretary.
Hanley, who couldn’t be reached for comment, plans to retire in January 2021 after 27 years, according to Human Resources Director Jim Hutt. His annual ending salary is $92,636.
Dickinson said he may not hire a full time replacement for Hanley, if he fills the position at all, citing the reduced job duties since meetings went virtual after the start of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re currently reviewing what needs to be done and how best we can do it,” Dickinson said. “We’re not televising meetings like we had, we’re not using our cameras. Day-to-day operations are kind of in suspension.”
Hanley worked in the control room when meetings of town boards and commissions took place in Town Hall’s auditorium, recording the meetings for broadcast on WGTV and YouTube.
He still attends meetings, now held using the virtual meeting platform GoToMeeting, although the recording is made by the application.
When asked if he’s considering eliminating the position, Dickinson said he doesn’t know “at this point.”
“I suppose that could be a consequence,” he said.
Wolff, who has worked in the position for 31 years, said Monday she is hoping to leave at end of January, but plans to stay on until a replacement is found.
In addition to her general secretarial duties, she maintains the town’s municipal website and participated in a redesign featuring a more mobile-friendly layout earlier this year.
Wolff’s ending salary is $26.78 per hour.
Still searching for a town planner
The town planner position, vacated by Kacie Hand in August, is still open. The town planner oversees land use planning and municipal zoning activities.
Acting Town Planner Tom Talbot started part-time in February when Hand was on maternity leave and now works 35 hours a week.
Talbot, a former assistant planner in the Wallingford office from 1987 to 2001, said Monday that he applied for the position, but about six weeks ago withdrew his name from consideration.
“I decided there were other things I wanted to do,” he said.
The position pays between $97,023 and $124,140 annually, according to the job posting.
Dickinson said the search for a new town planner continues, despite having attracted several applicants.
“We went through a recruitment,” he said, “went through interviews, but were unsuccessful in being able to appoint a town planner, and now we’re going through it again.”