You could call her Hurricane Irene. Less than a month after Meriden's 20-year City Clerk Irene Massé (R) was endorsed by – not one, not two – but three separate political parties in Meriden in her bid for City Clerk in the Nov. 2011 election – Massé's 168 fellow clerks voted her the state's "Town Clerk of the Year" last week at their convention.
"I was like, 'wow'" Massé said, remembering her excitement, when she realized announcers were talking about her as they described the winner before reading her name last Thursday. She was at the Connecticut Town Clerks Conference at Water’s Edge in Westbrook. "This is (voted on by) all your peers - so I am quite proud of that."
The Connecticut Town Clerks Association recognizes one member each year, based on contributions both to the association and to his or her town.
"She’s fit the bill for me for many years," said Berlin Town Clerk Kathryn Wall, who received the award herself in 2007 and co-chaired a committee with Massé focused on integrating electronic record-keeping into the state's town clerk offices. "She really contributes to the association – her contributions are done quietly, professionally...she’s not someone who stands up and says 'hey look at me'...just quietly does her job."
After being elected Clerk in 1991, Massé oversaw her own office's shift to electronic recordkeeping. "Over the years, this department went from zero computers in 1991 to a complete computerization of office functions," she said in a biography provided by the association.
She made sure that office staff members had a computer at their individual desks and were able to electronically access records like voter files, absentee ballots, city contracts and more information from their own portal. She scanned and catalogued town documents, including maps of town from as far back as 1843.
Massé also spearheaded the effort in 1992 for the clerk's office to be open at night, according to her biography.
"I always say when people ask me about the job – I love people, I love paperwork," she said, so changing hours to serve residents who work during normal business hours was important to her.
Massé was born and raised in Meriden, and is proud that her three children and all six grandchildren live in the city. She attended St. Laurent Elementary School and graduated from Meriden High School in 1957.
She started working at First Federal Savings (which had later lives as Jefferson Federal, Connecticut National Bank, and Connecticut Bank.) on Church Street in Meriden, and eventually spent 20 years in the banking industry working her way up to a position in Hartford, with an office on the 20th floor of the Stilts Building.
One day, "I said 'I miss Meriden.' (At that point) I had 20 years, my mom was home sick," so Massé left the position.
Her involvement with the local Republican party grew, and she was asked if she would run for City Clerk in 1991.
"Like I said, I love people and I love paperwork, and I knew there was plenty of that up here, so I said 'OK, I’ll try for it' – and here I am, 20 years later," Massé said.
Her years as a local banker helped her in that first election, she said.
"People would say to me 'Oh My God I used to stand in your line at the bank,'" Massé said, when she ran the first time.
Twenty years later, Meriden's residents and officials have come to depend on Massé for everything from registering for their dog's license, to help with genealogical research.
"She is very fair and well respected by members in the Democratic Party," said Democratic Town Committe Chair Mildred Torres-Ferguson, whose party dual endorsed the Republican nominee Massé at the group's nominating convention in July. We The People followed suit in August.
Torres-Ferguson said Massé has been instrumental in helping the party be sure their filings and forms are submitted to City Hall on time, and been quick in providing requested information.
"She's considered a good friend in City Hall," Torres-Ferguson said.
Click on the video above to see more about Massé and her role as City Clerk.