Marilyn Gomeau cuts the cake at a reception for her retirement on Thursday.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — For a few days, the city sort of had two clerks — one settling into a three-year term and one transitioning out after just over 15 years in the post.
On Monday, there would only be one and there was a little apprehension about this new chapter for both of them.
"It's a little scary," said City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau on Thursday as she wrapped up her career at City Hall. "I think it's going to be good. ... I'm not a person who likes to stay home all day but I'm sure I'll find enough to keep me busy."
"I'm excited. And a little nervous," she said. "But I had a good mentor and a good teacher."
Gomeau was feted last Tuesday at her last official City Council meeting, one which saw her not only give the oath to her successor but also new Assistant Clerk Cathy Verrier and a half-dozen firefighters and police officers.
"I like swearing in the police officers, I really do," she said. "I think I would have been more nervous without something like that to do ... it took my mind off the fact it was my last meeting."
She's looking forward to spending time with her son, grandchildren and her older siblings, all of whom live outside the Berkshires.
"It's been a good run but now it's time to step back and enjoy life," she said.
Gomeau had worked in the city clerk's office for more than 20 years, starting part-time and later becoming assistant clerk. In 2003, she succeeded Mary Ann Abuisi, who had groomed her to take over. Abuisi was taking early retirement after 28 years as clerk, so Gomeau completed her term before being appointed to a full three-year term.
"I was lucky, I was fortunate," she said because she was able to move up as others left.
In November 2003, Gomeau was sworn in by then Council President Alan Marden with Abuisi, and her predecessor, Millie Manson, beside her.
Gomeau said she was grateful that her mother, Margaret Lanoue, was alive at the time and knew that she had become the city clerk. She died just a few weeks later.
Her family had been involved in the city's civic life for decades. Her grandfather Thomas Quinn, was president of the City Council when she was born in 1951. Her mother was the longtime secretary of the Northern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce and had "adopted" Marden when he arrived to become its executive director. Gomeau's father, Chester "Chet" Lanoue, was the director of the Fall Foliage Festival Parade.
Gomeau's not totally walking away from public service — she'll be back for a bit part-time to help as needed after the new team has a week to settle in and is considering other ways to get involved.
Her history with City Hall goes back to 1976 when she became a census taker. Back then, the annual census was done by knocking on doors and Gomeau saw it as a way to get out of the house and earn some money. She got 10 cents a name.
When her son got older, he and friends would accompany her as she worked through the college area.
"They'd come with me when I was knocking on doors, they got a big charge out of that," she said. Later, when the census was done by mail, she and her colleagues would work at a large table where her office now is.
"We'd have this stuff spread all over the place," Gomeau said. "We'd have a great time, it was fun."
It led to Abuisi, a neighbor she'd known since childhood, asking if she was interested in joining the clerk's office in 1996. Gomeau credits Abuisi for teaching her what she needed to know.
"She was very particular about everything and me being who I was, I was always a very organized person anyways," she said. "I fell into it. You have to be organized here. You have to set priorities."
Sometimes that's come off as "very picky," Gomeau said, "but it's government and government has certain ways it's supposed to be done."
Abuisi had told her speak up when she thought something wasn't right, she said. "'Your name goes on everything when you sign it, make sure it's right,' she told me."
She didn't think she could learn the ordinances, but she has, and was in awe of Abuisi's ability to sort the mail by request or inquiry just by looking at the envelope.
"Now I find I can do it myself," Gomeau said. "You can just tell because you do it for so long."
The clerk has to learn to work with a new council and president on a regular basis, the nine bosses who determine who has the job every three years. Gomeau said she worked hard because she never took her post for granted. Overall, she said, the councils have been good groups to work with.
"I feel the clerk is only as good as the people she has behind her: the assistant, the election workers. You could never do this job by yourself," she said.
Her favorite parts of the job is getting to reconnect with people who come into the office, helping with genealogy searches (though that's tapered off with more records online), keeping the vital statistics that show the life of the city in births, marriages and deaths, and, most especially, the elections.
Even though the first one she helped with made her such a nervous wreck, she cried. Now, Pedercini says, "she runs it like a well-oiled machine."
"I really enjoy doing elections. It's stressful but I enjoy getting it all together," Gomeau said. "This is democracy and you're part of it. And when it all comes together, you feel really good about it. ... It always makes me feel good."
Pedercini will be taking over that aspect now. She first helped with the presidential election in 2016, when Gomeau approached her about possibly stepping into her shoes.
"She knew she was going to retire, she came to me and asked if I was interested," she said. Pedercini had spent 27 years in the Community Development Office as the fiscal compliance officer and doing some of the duties now taken over by Director of Tourism and Community Events Suzy Helme.
Pedercini was wary of change and felt "comfy here" but knew there was no further chance for advancement where she was. But after two years in the clerk's office, she's ready to take over.
"She's been doing a good job so I guess she's been listening to me," Gomeau laughed.
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