NAUGATUCK — After winning her position in the May elections, Michelle Dowling began her new job this month as Town Clerk.
“It’s probably the best public office to work in,” Dowling said. “People come in and they’re happy. They’re not coming in to pay taxes. You get people come in for marriage licenses, so you hope they’re happy.”
Dowling won her job in the May 2 election over Mayoral Aide Ed Carter and is hardly a new face in the office, having worked there as assistant town clerk for 12 years. The office, staffed by four people, receives about 10,000 people a year for land records, vital statistics, dog licenses and other constituent services.
Dowling succeeds Sophie Morton, who retired last week after 28 years in the position. Borough officials praised Morton’s years of service and wished her luck in her retirement, although some objected to a $26,000 payout she requested for unused sick and vacation time.
In budget workshops, some members of the Joint Boards of Finance and Mayor and Burgesses argued that elected officials who work full-time do not have to keep track of sick, vacation and personal days, or compensatory time for overtime work. Therefore, they are not eligible for retirement payouts for unused days, members of the joint boards said.
The Joint Boards approved the payout based on a borough attorney’s recommendation, but a subcommittee of burgesses is looking at changing a borough ordinance to prevent a similar situation.
The issue will not apply to Dowling, who signed an agreement with Mayor Robert Mezzo that she will not be eligible for accrued sick, vacation or personal days.
“I opted not to go through what Sophie went through,” Dowling said.
The agreement sets her salary at about $56,000, the same amount that Morton made.
Mezzo negotiated the agreement with Dowling to answer the concerns of some members of the joint boards, he said.
“We thought it in the best interest of the incoming town clerk and the borough to codify what the retirement conditions would be in the transition,” Mezzo said. “I think Michelle is a talented professional and a great person who’s going to do a great job as the town clerk.”
Dowling also promoted Leslie Mazur, who previously worked as an office manager in the Town Clerk’s Office, to assistant town clerk. In the ensuing position shuffle, an account clerk vacancy will likely open, Dowling said.