Tisbury Town Clerk Marion Mudge’s decision to retire after 30 years on the job has generated the only race on the ballot, a contest between Hillary Conklin and Barbara J. Lampson.
The town clerk fulfills five administrative roles, as the legislative administrator, chief elections officer and clerk officio of the board of registrars, chief public information administrator, public records officer and licensing administrator, and census and voter registration administrator.
The salary for a new clerk is $84,892.
In telephone calls and emails, Ms. Conklin and Ms. Lampson described their backgrounds and reasons for running for town clerk.
Ms. Conklin grew up in Northampton. She studied land use management and parks administration at UMass Amherst, while working in her parents’ shops in Northampton.
“During college I summered here, working as a waitress, a house cleaner and a store clerk at Murray’s, before realizing the Island was my true home in 1985,” Ms. Conklin said.
Ms. Conklin is married to Tisbury police detective Mark Santon. For the past 16 years she has worked as the administrative secretary to the Tisbury selectmen.
During that time Ms. Conklin has taken on a variety of roles, as needed. She served as acting assistant to the town administrator in 2000, acting shellfish constable in 2009, and as a municipal union representative on a search committee for a new town administrator in 2012.
Ms. Conklin said she also oversaw the administrative details for old fire station demolition project, the town hall painting project in 2012, and the old fire station demolition project in 2013. In addition, she volunteered to serve on the town’s capital program committee for 10 years, the emergency services facility site committee, and on the Finance and Advisory Committee for the past year.
“Those who know me know that I am what you would call a ‘lifer’ at town hall and do not want to work anywhere else,” she said. “My colleagues are part of our town hall family, which puts me in a fortunate position. We have an exceptional team with Marion, Suzanne Kennedy, Tim McLean, and Aase Jones.”
Ms. Conklin said she first learned of Ms. Mudge’s plan to retire while talking with her when they were working late one day in January of this year.
“I began considering the idea of running for the town clerk pretty much as I do everything else,” she said. “If a person crosses my path that needs a little help or I recognize an issue that I might be able to bring something to, I jump in headfirst.”
Before making the leap, however, Ms. Conklin said she decided to do some homework. She attended a Massachusetts Town Clerks’ Association Conference with Ms. Mudge in Sturbridge in February.
“I thought if I took some classes to get my feet wet, then I could come to a decision,” she said. “I went with the encouragement of the town hall team.”
Ms. Conklin said in attending the classes, she realized she was learning only about a fraction of what are very involved subjects. Nevertheless, she said, the experience affirmed her interest in becoming town clerk and made her realize that although she has a lot to learn, it is doable.
“Knowing I had the support of the home team, I determined I could really do this,” she said.
Ms. Lampson grew up in Chilmark and graduated from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. She studied at Oberlin College and UMass Amherst in the department of landscape architecture and regional planning. She also did graduate studies at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies in landscape design and business.
Ms. Lampson moved to Los Angeles and worked as a production manager in the film industry for about 10 years. On her return to Martha’s Vineyard in 2006, she was hired as a coordinator by the Dukes County Charter Study Commission to assist with documentation and record-keeping during its 18-month review of county government.
Ms. Lampson now works three days a week as the children’s and programs librarian at the Aquinnah Public Library. She also works as a landscape designer, drawing up plans, and teaches various classes in landscape design for the Adult Community Education of Martha’s Vineyard. She lives with her partner, Andrew Worlock, and has a grown son, Ian Tripp, who attends Bard College.
“I’ve been involved in municipal work for a number of years now, and I really love being involved in the community.” Ms. Lampson said. “I put on an enormous number of community centered programs a week, for children, adults, and families.”
Her interest in town government and the process was sparked when she attended her first Chilmark town meeting at age 11, she said. In high school she served as a student representative to the school committee during the initial passage of Proposition 2.5 and was president of her class as a junior and senior.
“I’ve always been involved in these types of things, and I really believe in the town government system we’ve got, because the voters are really in charge,” she said.
“The town clerk position is unique in that you really work directly for the voters, and the position is of service to the voters,” Ms. Lampson added. “It’s not just things like records; you do everything, from helping them navigate how to do things like getting marriage licenses and all that sort of thing, to researching their genealogy.”
Ms. Lampson sees the town clerk’s role as being about service and also information. “I think I’d be good at that,” she said. “And the multitasking nature of the job is actually very similar to the managerial work I was doing in Los Angeles.”
This week, Ms. Lampson acknowledged that a portion of her 2013 taxes are overdue.
“All I can say is that I am a human being like anyone else, and I fell behind on my taxes during the recent economic downturn, and I have been working very hard to catch up on them since,” she said in an email.
Ms. Lamson said the tax collector is aware of her situation and that she has been making regular payments. “I have worked three jobs for the last five years to make up any arrears I may have had in any direction, while being involved in my community in many positive ways,” she said.