After 34 years, Clerk Favreau retires

The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia

Patricia Favreau answers a call in the office where she will finish her 34th year as Berne’s town clerk at the end of the month. It will be her last, as she retires. Taking her place will be Deputy Town Clerk Anita Clayton, who won the November election. Among other endeavors, Favreau said she would like to learn French and play more competitive bridge.

The Enteprise — Marcello Iaia

Indexed, but not searchable: Town Clerk Patricia Favreau called computers a miracle in her job. Shown are the typewritten pages, indexed in red pen in the margins, of meeting minutes she can now search digitally on her computer. The town clerk is the town’s marriage officer, registrar of vital statistics, deputy tax collector and receptionist. She issues dog, hunting, and marriage licenses; she edits the town newsletter; she keeps the keys to the senior van and manages the schedule of the town park; and she prepares advertisements and legal notices.

BERNE — Sitting at her tall, U-shaped desk covered in clear glass jars of candies and pens and stacks of papers, Town Clerk Patricia Favreau belts out from her seat, “Anita.”

Deputy Town Clerk Anita Clayton shared, laughing with Favreau, one of the most often-asked questions of their office, the hub of town government: “Could I have the number for the post office?”

Favreau is retiring as town clerk in Berne after 34 years. An open house for visitors is being held for her at the town hall on Saturday, Dec. 14.

A Democrat, Favreau won her first term in 1980, when the position was part-time and she also worked as a waitress at Zwicklbauer's Hofbrau restaurant.

“Rudy Stempel and I were elected at the same time,” said Favreau of the supervisor, now deceased. “We didn’t know what we were doing at all.”

Favreau has risen to be esteemed as a town clerk, serving as president of the New York State Town Clerks Association from 2005 to 2007, and holding several offices in the organization before that. She is a certified clerk, a registered municipal clerk, and a member of the Masters of Municipal Clerk Academy. In 2010, Favreau was honored as Clerk of the Year by the NYSTCA.

Alan Zuk, supervisor of the town for 16 years during Favreau’s service, remembered a summer picnic she had at her home where town clerks from large and distant towns looked up to her.

“She was considered to be the dean of town clerks,” said Zuk. He said one of Favreau’s defining qualities, as town clerk is her enthusiasm. When Berne was revaluing property townwide, Zuk said, the board’s meeting room was filled with residents.

“You couldn’t put another person in the building, and I never saw her lose her cool,” said Zuk.

Favreau moved from Eagle Bridge to Berne with her brother and mother in 1943, at the age of 7, when her mother worked at Berne-Knox as a school nurse. They lived for a few years in the same building where Favreau works — as the town hall building was originally used as a hotel and tavern.

“Her mom knew everyone,” Zuk said of Favreau’s mother, who was the school nurse when he was an elementary student.

As a little girl, Favreau said, she wanted to be a dancer. A fifth-grade teacher gave her and other students a tap-dancing lesson and she practiced on her own.

“I liked to dance. I liked to perform,” said Favreau. She was a longtime choreographer and a charter member of the Hilltowns Players.

“I would read whatever they would say, or I would make up a dance,” said Favreau. Her husband, John Favreau, was a teacher at Berne-Knox and a member of the planning board and the library board of trustees. He served as an auxiliary clerk when Favreau needed extra help. Mr. Favreau died in 1999.

“This office is in a position to know everybody, but I don’t think there are as many organizations today to bring people together,” said Favreau.

When she was little, Favreau remembered, neighbors throughout the hamlet would open their doors to children and multiple generations would go to square dances together.

“We could ask any of them for anything,” said Favreau.

After graduating from high school, Favreau said, she went to the teachers’ college in Albany, now the University of Albany, because she wanted to become a social studies teacher. She is keen to read about history and law.

“Give me a map, and I can study it for a long time,” said Favreau. She counts Mark Twain and Winston Churchill among her favorite figures. Favreau said history sometimes repeats itself in the town, but wouldn’t specify.

As town clerk, Favreau taught classes about elections to second-graders and juniors at Berne-Knox-Westerlo She savored her role as an elections officer.

“I used to get up at 5 o’clock at every election to distribute the suitcases, and I’d stay until 11 o’clock to receive the results and report them to the county,” said Favreau.

“It felt like my duty as a town clerk. I was kind of proud to have been a part of it,” said Favreau.

After a year at college, Favreau said, she wanted to get married and thought she could come back to the free education, which she did for a few courses.

Favreau has worked with four different supervisors. She described current supervisor Kevin Crosier as colorful and energetic.

“When Alan left, I was heartbroken,” said Favreau, who used to give Zuk a daily, noon-time briefing on his break from work as BKW’s transportation director. “Then came Kevin, and I said, ‘I cried when he came and I cried when he left.’”

Crosier came into Favreau’s office when his term was beginning in 2002 with a cup of maple syrup for her.

“I said, ‘I want you to know this is going to be very difficult for me,’” Favreau remembered saying. She and Crosier create the agenda together for each board meeting, and she forwards him important information or research that has come through her office, whether it’s residents chatting or new regulations.

“Her sense of fair play,” current supervisor Kevin Crosier said of Favreau. “It didn’t matter who you were, everybody got the same treatment.”

Once retired, Favreau said she would like to organize her photographs and recipes at home. Hoping to receive language software for Christmas, she wants to learn French. She also plans to take lessons on her bowed psaltery, a stringed instrument given to her by her family one Christmas.

“It’s been an honor and a pleasure and I don’t think I ever dreaded it,” said Favreau of her work with the town.

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