A very familiar face disappears from Barrington Town Hall next week.
Town Clerk Linda James is retiring. Her final day on the job is Sept. 5. It will be a bittersweet departure.
“I don’t think about it,” James said. “I can’t go there yet.”
James has been Town Clerk for three years. The West Barrington native has worked in Town Hall for more than 31 years, most of that time as deputy town clerk.
“The last three years have been spectacular,” she said. “I always thought they would carry me out, that I would work until I died. But it’s time now.”
James has worked under three town managers. She was named Town Clerk by Town Manager Peter DeAngelis Jr.
“We’ve always worked in a fish bowl,” James said.
Her position and that of the other clerks in Town Hall creates a particular responsibility to serve people in the most user-friendly way possible, she said.
“We need to acknowledge people,” James said. “Sometime we’re the only government they see. We must make government accessible and approachable. It’s up to us to make their experiences here positive.”
The biggest change over the years has been the technology, she said. Gone are the days of manually finding information or processing licenses or making copies.
“It’s unbelievable,” James said. “The traffic has changed drastically. Sometime we worked half a day making copies for people. I don’t think you can appreciate it if you haven’t been there.”
James and the town clerk she replaced, Lorraine Derois, were at one time the only two people in that office. Now there are three full-time positions and a part-time post.
James holds far more good memories than bad ones – the reason that she has never been tempted to leave Town Hall for a private-sector job.
“Working with people has been my favorite thing,” she said, probably followed closely by working at rabies clinics and giving tours of Town Hall to school children.
“The questions they ask,” she mused. “They are just in awe of government.”
James plans to spend more time with her three grandchildren, ages 4, 8 and 10, and her one grand-cat and one grand-dog. She has three grown children.
She plans to take a few short-term trips to Cape Cod and Disney World before the end of this year.
“Then it’s an open book,” James said.