When Joanne Lincoln was first elected Clerk of the City of Naples in 1996, the city looked a lot like what it is today, although the Main Street was home to the Naples Diner, the Naples Hardware Store, and Vierhile’s Appliances , among other companies since disappeared.
Of course, the city center is part of the village of Naples, and the city is a different entity, at least as far as the governing bodies are concerned. After all these years, Lincoln said she was still surprised at how many people confused the two: someone is coming for a dog license, after mistakenly going to the village clerk first, or they are coming. at the town office to pay their village water bill.
Either way, Lincoln said, she prefers people to come to the office.
“People think I know everyone,” she said. “But I only know them if they stop.” The most rewarding part of the job has been “being able to help people,” she said.
Lincoln is retiring after more than two decades as a city clerk and before that, an accountant and deputy city clerk. She also worked part-time for the Ontario County Electoral Council during her long career.
Being a municipal clerk, yesterday and today
Lincoln said the city clerk’s duties have remained roughly the same, although the work has been done differently since computers took over the workplace. Early computer models, she recalls, were clunky and no better than a word processor.
Lincoln remembered when getting a hunting license was so popular that lines formed at the door and along the sidewalk. People were always polite, pleasant to work with, even hunters who had to wait in long lines, she said. “They have been so patient.”
She spoke of the city supervisors she worked under from her freshman year 1996 to the present: Don Leysath; Frank Duserick; Mike Robinson; John Cowley; Tamara Hicks.
“They were all great to work with them,” she said. “The boards have remained quite strong,” she added, naming some who have remained on city council for several terms and provide continuity as new board members have arrived and are learning the ropes.
The most memorable controversies
She couldn’t remember, off the top of her head, the burning issues that had arisen with the city. Controversies always seemed to land with the village. A few that came to mind: Whether it was to dissolve the village, pursue a public sewer, or allow a pizza shop owner to install a mechanical fire-breathing dragon atop his rooftop on Main Street.
Marriage licenses, she said, could be interesting. Anyone planning to get married in New York State can apply to the Naples City Clerk for their permit. Some people knew it, some didn’t. While many couples seeking a marriage license had a connection to Naples – they grew up there, had family or close friends in town – there were also times when a couple married on the sly.
A pair came from Rochester to get their Naples marriage license, believing it was far enough away that “nobody knows,” she said. Then there was a woman from Madagascar – an island country off the coast of East Africa – who arrived with her fiance in search of a marriage license. The problem was, there was a lot of paperwork to be done before Lincoln could grant the license. The couple left and she never saw them again, despite hearing through the vineyard they ended up getting their marriage license in south Bristol.
Family, farm life
Lincoln was probably more aware of the town’s problems than most long before his election. In addition to her own work experience, her husband Mert Lincoln served two terms as city supervisor after serving on city council.
Juggling work and family life, the Lincolns ran a household busy raising three children and a farm with crops, pigs, chickens and “just about everything,” Lincoln said. The couple have also opened their home to a number of foster children over the years, ranging from newborns to 16.
The need for foster parents was enormous. “They were desperate,” said Lincoln. At that time, she said, there was a limit to how long you could take in a child and adopting that child was not an option. She recalled how heartbreaking it was to part with the newborn baby they raised until she was six months old.
At home, like at work, the hardest parts were always “the changes,” said Joanne.
While it’s bittersweet to hand over the baton, Joanne said she looks forward to some more free time for hobbies like gardening and spending time with her family. This includes eight grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren. She will be available to assist new City Clerk Joanne Schenk during the transition.
Any advice for the new clerk? “Just smile,” she said.