Linda Spence

Some people fit so naturally into their jobs that it's difficult to imagine the organizations they work for functioning without them. Or how the place functioned before they got there. Such is the case with Linda Spence, who was such a fixture at the Town Clerk's office on one end of Town Hall.

Of course, someone else will in time occupy those shoes, just as Linda filled those of her highly regarded predecessor, Barbara Cross. But it will be awhile before we will all get used to the idea that Linda's smile and helpful demeanor won't be part of the routine there.

Whether it was small business or large, Linda was always a constant. The same importance attached to the simple requests, as well as the more complicated ones. Here at The Journal, we especially recall her help during the town's 250th anniversary celebrations, which happened to coincide with The Journal's 150th anniversary, in 2011. We found ourselves making more than the usual number of trips up to the Town Hall to study historical documents and glean information about the long journeys the town and the newspaper have made since 1761 and 1861, respectively. Maybe it was our imagination, but it seemed like Linda got an extra kick out of dusting off those big archive books and finding old documents, like the town's original charter. Her ability to interpret and give context to some of the more obscure pieces of the town's history was indispensable.

We also got a kick out of her personal recollections of life at The Journal back in the day, about 40 years ago, when she worked for a time here at the paper. Whether it was tying loose ends together about who fit in where, or just funny anecdotes about how the paper got done back then, she was an invaluable source of information.

As many know by now, however, Linda's range of interest in the world of municipal clerkship went far beyond Manchester's boundaries. She was a mentor to many younger town clerks, played a large role in the state town clerk organization, and was also deeply involved at the regional and even international levels. She was Vermont's Town Clerk of the Year in 2003. Only last month, she was named as chairwoman of the membership committee of the International Institute of Municipal Clerks. Clearly, there was much more she had left to offer before her sudden, shocking and untimely passing last weekend.

The town has lost a good friend and official, and it will be strange indeed come next March Town Meeting not to see her at her accustomed spot on the corner of the multipurpose room at the Manchester Elementary Middle School, hunched over her computer and checking some sort of list or document with a slightly bemused and perhaps skeptical eye. The town and the town office will go on, and 20, 30 or 40 years from now, town residents of those future eras will be wondering how things will get done without the services of whoever winds up coming along. And of course somebody will, and those tasks will get done, and no doubt, done well.

Linda was Manchester's 24th town clerk, dating back to 1772. She set the standard for crisp, efficient and pleasant service. Having someone like Linda to deal with put meaning into why many folks like the personal touch of small town life, in contrast to the detached disinterest of larger bureaucracies that lose the connection to the people they are supposed to serve. Linda never forgot where she came from. She left us far too soon, and we will all miss her.


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