Laura Brennan is saying “goodbye” after a long and distinguished tenure as Cheshire’s Town Clerk.
Her heir apparent, by all accounts, will be Patti King, the current Deputy Town Clerk who has been endorsed by both political parties. King is no doubt qualified for the position, as she’s received the full-throated support of Brennan and the local Republican and Democratic Town Committees who, no matter their disagreements on other matters, seem in lock-step when it comes to King’s abilities.
But the Town Clerk shouldn’t be subject to the whims of political parties or, for that matter, the decision of the voters. It should, like the Town Manager, Parks and Recreation Director, Superintendent of Schools, and so on, be a hired position within Town Hall, and Cheshire should move to make it so in the coming years.
Calling for such action has nothing to do with Brennan or King. Both have proven more than capable of handling the duties currently before them and King no doubt has the experience to take over for her current boss. Yet, by keeping the Town Clerk position, which is inherently apolitical, in the political arena, it invites unnecessary squabbles and opens the door for the possibility of one or even multiple candidates without the necessary qualifications to do the job throwing their hat in the election ring down the road.
When the Town Council set about replacing former Town Manager Michael Milone several years ago, they cast a wide net. They invited candidates from differing backgrounds and levels of experience to interview, whittled the candidates down to a few finalists, and from there hired current Town Manager Sean Kimball. Whether internal candidates, who have proven their worth over years, are promoted, or outside candidates are invited in, the hiring process plays out the same throughout Town Hall because it is a valuable way of securing the best employees possible.
The Clerk position, like all others, has evolved over the years. Technology changes the way in which documents are recorded, kept, and made available to the public. That means the best people for the Town Clerk’s office are those adapting in a way that integrates new tech into the day-to-day operations of the position.
And given the nature of the responsibilities of the office, almost everyone in Cheshire will come in contact with the Town Clerk. Whether they are securing a license for their dog or reviewing important land records pertaining to local properties, the Clerk is the one to see.
Some may see that as a reason to keep the position as an elected one, considering all the areas of community life it touches. But one can make an even stronger argument for making the Clerk a hired position so as to ensure only qualified individuals ascend, as well as provide for a clear path towards removing someone who isn’t handling their responsibilities as effectively as they should.
Many will be motivated to keep the status-quo given the lack of controversy that has surrounded this position over the years. In fact, as The Herald reports this week, in the long history of the Town Clerk in Cheshire, only a handful of individuals have held the position given that almost all were elected to multiple terms.
And barring anything outlandish and unexpected in the next two months, King will take over for Brennan and continue the continuity. No doubt she will do a fine job. She has the experience and the support. If the Clerk position were not an elected one, it’s likely King would still be the top choice and best option for Cheshire.
But just because the end result in 2023 will likely be to everyone’s satisfaction does not mean that the process shouldn’t be examined and ultimately changed. It may seem insignificant now, but one day it may not.