SOUTH KINGSTOWN — After nearly four decades of a storied and successful career in South Kingstown, Town Clerk Dale Holberton is looking forward to the next chapter of her life.
Before serving her last day in the office yesterday, though, members of the town council took a few moments on Monday night to celebrate Holberton’s career and wish her the best of luck in retirement.
It’s not easy to present someone with a proclamation when they’re normally the ones writing it and placing it into the agenda, but town administrators, employees and council members worked together to completely surprise Holberton.
“It’s been such an honor to have been able to serve South Kingstown,” a teary-eyed Holberton said after receiving a standing ovation from everyone sitting in the town council chambers that night. “It’s a privilege to represent the town and its residents for the past 30-something years in my capacity as town clerk.”
Holberton first began her career in South Kingstown Town Clerk’s Office in September 1980, where, within five years, she was promoted to the deputy town clerk. Less than two years later, in February 1987, Holberton was promoted again to the position of town clerk — one she would hold for 33 years.
In all, Holberton has served the Town of South Kingstown and its residents for 39 years.
Under her tenure as town clerk, Holberton served 17 different town councils, administered 51 elections as Clerk to the Canvassing Authority, orchestrated 19 financial town meetings and one all-day budget referendum, according to the official proclamation written in her honor.
“She has maintained the town’s historic records in excellent, accessible condition preserving these vital documents so important to our community’s legacy,” Town Council President Abel Collins read from the proclamation. “Her trademark signature has traveled around the world on countless birth, death and marriage records, and now she will have the time to travel the world herself, and spend her days enjoying her retirement and time with her husband Karl, as well as her sons Karl Jr. and Thaddeus.”
Over the course of nearly four decades, Holberton had to embrace new technologies to improve and modernize the function and efficiency of the town’s records. She and her team adapted away from handwritten ledgers and books to electronic record-keeping — “the current system where documents can be electronically viewed immediately.”
The achievements she’s experienced over the course of her career would not have been possible, she said, had it not been for her staff, both past and current.
“They are smart, they are loyal and they are dedicated — and they are dedicated to the residents here in South Kingstown,” Holberton said. “I owe a great deal to them.”
Holberton also expressed thanks and gratitude to all of the town council members and town managers she’s been able to work with over her tenure — especially Stephen Alfred.
“I owe him a great deal of gratitude and thanks — he had a lot of confidence in me and taught me a lot of great things,” she said.
In addition to the proclamation Holberton received Monday night, VFW Post 916 Commander Joe “Tiger” Patrick was also able to surprise her with kind words of thanks and appreciation for all that she’s done as staff liaison to the Saugatucket Veterans Memorial Park Commission.
“You’ve done a lot for us veterans and families over the years,” Patrick said.
Holberton spent countless hours gathering information and assisting the committee members in certifying the names of veterans to be recognized and honored on the new Veterans Memorial at Saugatucket Park, according to the proclamation, and again in March 2016, she oversaw the engraving of additional names on the Memorial.
According to Patrick, 1,960 names of servicemen and women have been engraved onto the monument — a remarkable feat, he said, for a small town.
To help thank her for all that she’s done, Patrick also worked to help make the impossible happen. He was able to convince the national commander-in-chief of the VFW, William J. “Doc” Schmitz, to bestow honorable recognition upon Holberton. It’s an honor that is very seldom given to a civilian, Patrick said, making it that much more remarkable.
“Her lifelong commitment to the community and its veterans is a lasting tribute to all who wear, have worn, or will wear the uniforms of our nation,” the proclamation reads. “Her dedication has set a high standard for all who will follow in her footsteps.”
Holberton has been a role model for many other town clerks, Patrick added, not just because she has been around the longest, but because she’s so good at what she does. Her service, he went on, leaves a lasting impact on the town.
“Quietly, you’ve done a lot of things that have made a lot of lives a lot better — for our community and our veterans,” Patrick said.
In her much deserved retirement and time “to chill a little bit,” Holberton looks forward to spending more time with her family, traveling and maybe even improve her golf game a bit.