LEE -- An end of an era at Lee Memorial Town Hall as Janice Smith retires after 36 years as the town collector.
Smith, along with Eleanor Baumann, together for nearly 30 years made sure residents and second homeowners paid their property taxes, water and sewer bills and other municipal fees to help keep the town financial solvent.
While Baumann retired as the assistant collector two years ago, she has occasionally helped out Smith, especially during the busy billing periods. Tomorrow, the pair decided to work together for the last time as Smith calls it a career and Baumann will no longer work on an as-needed basis.
The two women say it has been a joy to work for the town, its people and be somewhat inseparable on the job.
"We never had an argument," Baumann said. "I guess we were like family."
Smith added, "Our husbands couldn’t tell us apart on the phone when they called our office."
Smith was first elected town collector in 1978, a position that would later become appointed by the town administrator. Baumann arrived two years later to be the assistant collector, retiring from full-time duty in 2012.
The financial duo brought the collector’s office into the high-tech age, switching from a manual to computerized billing system. They also increased the efficiency of the office and whittled away at the tax delinquency, with a tax and fee collection rate now in the upper 90-percentile.
However, Smith and Baumann say collecting taxpayers money was about service, as well as keeping town coffers filled.
"We always try to make people feel good," Baumann said.
"They’re just not a number," noted Smith.
The women also have a vast knowledge of residents that won’t be easily replaced, according to Town Administrator Robert Nason.
"If you couldn’t find someone in the phone book or on a street list, you could ask either of them as they are a fountain of information," Nason said.
Smith has mixed emotions about leaving her job, but being an avid traveler, she and her husband Ron are ready to do some globetrotting.
"We have four trips planned: New Zealand for a couple of weeks then off to Australia," said the new retiree. "In June, were headed to Normandy for the 70th anniversary of D-Day."
Smith referring to allied invasion of France June 6, 1944, that eventually led to the end of World War II in Europe.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233