Allenstown struggling to fill town clerk position after several resignations

Lyla Scheyd, 6, goes into the voting booth wih her grandmother Joann Scheyd at the St. John’s Parish Hall in Allenstown on Tuesday, March 12, 2019.GEOFF FORESTER

Lyla Scheyd, 6, goes into the voting booth wih her grandmother Joann Scheyd at the St. John’s Parish Hall in Allenstown on Tuesday, March 12, 2019.GEOFF FORESTER

By RAY DUCKLER

Monitor staff

Published: 01-29-2024 10:08 AM

Modified: 01-29-2024 11:00 AM


With all the preparation leading into Tuesday’s presidential primary followed by the start of town meeting season, it’s been a terrible time of the year to be without a full-time town clerk.

Allenstown has been searching for a qualified individual to fill the role of its top election official for months after a series of resignations.

The search for a new clerk was complicated by the fact that the job needed to be held by someone who lived in town.

“The only way we would get someone who knows the job on day one would be if we got lucky, and one of those clerks happened to move to Allenstown,” said Town Administrator Derik Goodine. “However, just like I didn’t win the lottery last week, we didn’t have such fortune to have an experienced town clerk fall from the sky and land in Allenstown.”

After two clerks resigned for personal reasons, and with the annual deliberative session of town meeting looming on Feb. 3, two longtime Allenstown residents – Diane Adinolfo and Judy Silva – stepped up to keep the office up and running during one of the busiest times of the year.

“We got really lucky to have two retired people step forward on a temporary basis,” Goodine said.

The new town clerk/tax collector, Christine Solans Merchant, has been in training and was scheduled to be sworn in Thursday.

A deputy clerk/tax collector is expected to be announced within the week. The staff normally includes one full-time position and two part-time positions.

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Goodine openly criticized a system that requires clerks, who are elected positions, to live in the town in which they serve. That, Goodine said, slows the hiring process because the pool of qualified employees, limited to just Allenstown, lessens the opportunity to find the right replacement quickly and requires more research. Some of these ‘outside’ individuals may have more experience than anyone in town and could begin working with limited training.

The state’s 13 cities have an advantage as they can hire a clerk from outside the municipality.

The job oversees motor vehicle registrations, vital statistics, elections and dog licenses. They’re responsible for public documents, oaths of office, tax collecting, and they also collect various fees and fines.

“This is not something you learn overnight,” Goodine said. “It is a rather complex job that takes at least a year or more to get up to speed, and I would dare say years to become proficient like any other job.”

With a tight labor market, finding the right person for the job is complicated by the residency requirement.

“So basically, the ability to hire an experienced person for the job is a needle in a haystack because of the limited number of experienced people in the state,” Goodine said. “As you can imagine, that further creates issues of trained and experienced staff being available to step into the job of a town clerk/tax collector.”

Since last summer, Kathleen Pelissier, Sarah Randlett and Brittany Littlefield have left their posts for personal reasons, or to change careers, Goodine said.

Littlefield’s resignation was accepted by the Select Board on Jan. 8.

Allenstown’s deliberative session is scheduled for Feb. 3.

By then, Goodine’s two new employees should be in place, at the town office.