I will not denounce current Berne administration and am sadly resigning as town clerk

To the Editor:

I would like to take this opportunity to say how much I love living in the town of Berne, a truly beautiful place, and I am so thankful for the property that I reside on.

Being your town clerk for the last seven-plus years, and the 13 years I worked at Town Hall before that as secretary to the zoning and planning boards and deputy town clerk, my favorite part of this job has been working for and helping the residents in town.

I have been fortunate to meet so many people and have made some wonderful friends. Pre-COVID, I always looked forward to having people visit my office and spend time talking, laughing, and sometimes even crying. For all these blessings, I am truly grateful.

As you are aware, this is an election year. Recently, I was asked by some members of the Berne Democratic Committee to interview for my job as town clerk, a job I have held for seven years and a place where I worked for many years before that.

I found this unprecedented but went through with the interview. However, after a few minutes, and for over one hour, I felt like it was more of an interrogation than questions regarding my abilities. I found this to be demeaning.

Over and over, I was asked to denounce the current administration. What does that mean to denounce someone?

It means to condemn, criticize, attack, censure, revile, and vilify someone. That is not who I am nor is it the role of the town clerk to engage in this kind of behavior toward elected officials of the town, town employees, or town residents.

Town clerks just don’t make up their decisions or actions based on their preferences or those of others. The duties of the position of town clerk is defined by New York State law and guidelines.

Over these last few years, many divisions on the town board have contributed to acrimonious and unproductive meetings and actions. I have always sought to remain outside of these divisions, to follow the laws and guidelines of my position, and to put the needs of the residents first.

I have been treated with respect and kindness by many of the same people I was asked to denounce. I refuse to do that; that is not who I am. I will not compromise myself to conform to actions that I believe are destructive to the people around me and to our community.

Supervisor Sean Lyons and some of the councilmembers, along with the employees and residents of the town, have been trying to make progress and contribute to the town. It has been extremely challenging when met with so much opposition. It will not take one party or another to fix our community, but the contribution of everyone working together.

At this time in my life, I have decided, with great sadness, to retire at the end of my term in December. I will offer my knowledge and expertise to the new town clerk you elect, so you can continue to be treated with the knowledge, expertise, kindness, and respect that you deserve.

Thank you so much for all the support, friendship, and kindness you have given me all these years. I will hold on to that always.

Anita C. Clayton

Berne Town Clerk

Editor’s note: See related story.

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