SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The next time you need to pop into the town clerk’s office for a copy of a birth certificate or a marriage license, expect to find a friendly, familiar face heading up the department.
Upon the recommendation of town manager Robert Zarnetske, the council unanimously approved Susan Flynn’s appointment to the position of town clerk on Monday night.
Having held the position of deputy town clerk for the past two decades and enjoyed a close working relationship with the former town clerk, Dale Holberton, during that time, Flynn brings working institutional knowledge and experience to her new role.
“After reviewing the resumes submitted by candidates for the position and after discussing the role with Susan, I am absolutely certain that Susan is the best person for the job,” Zarnetske said. “In the time I have known her, Susan has shown a strong work ethic, a can-do attitude, and a great regard and respect for the public we serve.”
The people she’s been able to meet and help over the years has been Flynn’s favorite part of the job, and she looks forward to continuing her work of serving the public.
It’s important to her that everyone walks through the door of the town clerk’s office feeling welcome. Over the years, Flynn has seen people walk through the door “in all sorts of different emotional states and levels of happiness or frustration or sadness.”
“They’re in here because they need something,” Flynn said. “They’re in here because they need your help, and very often we are the first place people come to in the town looking for help. It may not be that we’re going to have what they need, we may need to direct them someplace else, but this is the first face of the town.”
“We try to greet people with a good reception, fairness and helpfulness,” she added, “so that people are made to feel like they’re important, their needs are recognized and we’re going to do our best to help them.”
Though there’s no typical day in the town clerk’s office, Flynn said you can always expect the phones to be ringing and a line of people at the counter.
“People coming in here looking for everything,” she said. “They’re looking for birth records, death records, marriage records — we have people doing genealogy, we have tons of land evidence recordings, people are coming in to disaffiliate or change their affiliations because we have primaries coming up.”
The number of records that the town clerk’s office preserves are amazing, she said, dating far back into the town’s history. Flynn is particularly fascinated by the old ledgers that were written out by hand.
“When you watch a show like ‘Finding Your Roots,’ it’s a PBS Show with Henry Louis Gates Jr., they sometimes show where they had to go to do research, to find history of people’s families — I see the books on the shelves and think ‘Oh my god, we have the exact same binders,” Flynn said.
“It’s this universal thing of keeping historical records and maintaining those records,” she added. “For a lot of reasons, both genealogical and historical — what happened when and why, and who did what.”
In her new position, Flynn will not only be the custodian of official town records and public documents, including land evidence, elections, vital statistics, probate and licensing, but will also be responsible for overseeing meeting minutes and historical records of all council proceedings, drafting ordinances and resolutions, and overseeing all national, state, and local elections.
Though there will be a slight learning curve and lots to judge during the search for a new deputy town clerk, Flynn said she was able to come into this position not feeling overwhelmed or underprepared because of Holberton.
Any time she needs clarification, or might not be able to find the binder she’s looking for, Holberton is only a phone call away. For the most part, though, she thinks Holberton’s been able to enter into retirement rest assured that things are in good hands.
She remains thankful to Holberton for the collaboration and friendship they’ve shared over the years that allowed her to transition into this new role.
“I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in if it hadn’t been for the way we worked together,” Flynn said.
When she’s not serving the public, Flynn enjoys playing golf, spendings time with her grandchildren and going to the beach.