By Dave Moran
As published in the Record Journal Saturday January 2, 2010
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WALLINGFORD — Monday will mark the end of Barbara Kapi’s two years as town clerk. On Tuesday, Barbara Thompson, who served as clerk for two years before Kapi, will assume the position again after the new Republican controlled Town Council appoints her at its swearing in ceremony Monday evening.
Under the Town Charter, the Town Council is responsible for appointing a clerk. Typically, if control of the council shifts, the majority party appoints a clerk who is a member of the same party. On Monday, the Republicans gain a 6-3 advantage.
Since the charter was adopted in 1961, the position has changed hands 11 times (Monday’s switch will be the 12th), but three of those switches have occurred in the last six years. In January 2004, Rosemary Rascati, who served 12 years as clerk, was replaced by Katherine Zandri, a Democrat. Thompson, a Republican, succeeded Zandri in January 2006, and Kapi, a Democrat, replaced Thompson in 2008.
“It’s difficult,” Sue Colberg, who has worked in the office for 14 years, said Thursday. “It’s just repetitive that we have to go through it every two years, all the same things.”
Because the clerk is a prominent position, there has been a recent effort to find a way to stabilize the job. The clerk heads the office that keeps the town’s permanent records and vital statistics, such as birth and death certificates, and issues licenses.
One of the seven proposed revisions to the Town Charter that voters rejected in November would have changed the clerk’s position to a merit job — hired, supervised and, if need be, dismissed by the mayor.
Thompson, a real estate agent, said the potential for volatility could be detrimental to the town.
“The drawback is there’s a lack of consistency of the head person in the department to move the department forward,” she said. “I think we’ve been very lucky to have very good clerks through the appointment process, but at some point that is not going to happen.”
Thompson said she supported the amendment that would have made the clerk a permanent position. Kapi, who said she is looking forward to some time off before looking for a new job, said the uncertainty did not influence her decision to accept the post two years ago.
“You have to be wary of that,” Kapi said. “It just comes with the territory.”
She favors making the clerk an elected position, for a minimum term of four years, because it took her more than a year to learn the job.
“The job is so involved,” Kapi said. “And there’s always changes. There’s been so many changes in the two years that I’ve been here.”
Despite having to learn a new computer system, Thompson said she does not expect the transition to be too difficult the second time around. “I figure about 10 days to two weeks and I should be up to speed,” she said.
The council sets the clerk’s salary when it makes the appointment, but Thompson said Thursday that the council had already told her the salary would be the same as the last time she served — $60,900 a year.