by Joshua Maloni
The gatekeeper of all Village of Lewiston information is about to shut the door on a career that has spanned parts of four decades. Clerk/Treasurer Anne Welch is retiring at the end of this month.
"I am retiring after 31-1/2 years. ... It is time to spend time with my family and do some traveling. I love Lewiston, and it will always be my home," she said.
Welch began serving in the village's "command center" in May 1983.
"After being a stay-at-home mom when my kids were young, I decided to get back into the workforce," she said. "I applied for work at the village office and was hired by Mayor Marilyn Toohey in 1983 when June Morrison was the clerk treasurer.
"I remember my first day. Office Clerk Joyce Westadt (who was my neighbor) gave me envelopes to type. I never typed so fast in my life, because I was so nervous.
"She was always great to us and was like a mother to all of us. She gave us advice, recipes and a lot of knowledge of the job."
Welch quickly rose from an office clerk to clerk/treasurer. In that role, she became the den leader for an office that included Deputy Treasurer Karen Goodman, who was hired one month prior and who recently retired; Amy Salada, who was hired in 1990 and served 17 years as deputy clerk before transitioning this year to deputy treasurer; and Melody Griffith, who was appointed clerk to the Planning and Zoning boards in 2010, and joined the clerk's office in 2013.
Salada said she would miss Welch's "wealth of knowledge."
"We bounce off each other," she said. "What we don't know, we work together to find out, or she knows people and I know people."
"It all works as a team," Salada added.
"We, in the clerk's office, are the first responders," Welch said. "We field all the calls, complaints, etc.; we set up meetings with the mayor and trustees; we notify the DPW when residents have problems or just need help; we help people with development plans, sign applications, zoning appeals, building permit applications, tourist information, sporting licenses and events - just to name a few."
Salada said Welch "always got that (residents) come first - that they call us for help.
"If we don't have the answer right away, we get them the answer. We do our best to follow through and get them the answer. That's what people need - that's what people want. They just want to be heard. They want an answer. They want to know that you care, and that you're looking into it."
Griffith said Welch showed her "The first thing to do is listen to the citizens. We're here to serve them.
"We don't react to their anger. We listen to them. We find a way to make them happy and always go by the codebook."
"Patience is the best thing she's taught me," Griffith added.
Former Village of Lewiston Mayor Richard Soluri worked with Welch from 1994 until he stepped down in 2009.
"Anne, I remember her husband, Bob, said this, that she was the hardest-working employee in the village," he said. "That was what Bobby Welch said a number of years ago.
"But I think what describes Anne the most is how much she loved Lewiston, and how loyal she was to the village - for the village. She was a very caring employee."
Current Mayor Terry Collesano and village trustees presented Welch with a certificate of appreciation prior to Monday's board meeting.
"Anne, we're going to miss you," Collesano said. "It's been 31-1/2 years of a lot of fun. We haven't always agreed, but we always got along, and that's the main thing."
Trustee Vic Eydt said, "I've known Anne pretty much since grade school. We've had good times together. We've had some sad times together. But I tell you, I was on the Planning Board. She was phenomenal. She kept everybody in line. She's been a real trooper and an inspiration, and I'm really going to miss her."
Welch, who intends to spend more time with her six young grandchildren, said Lewiston is "a great place to live.
"I raised my kids here. It's important to have neighborhoods and residents that care about each other. It's important to know all this stuff and to really have that passion for your job, and I always have.
"I love everything about Lewiston."
Looking back, she said, "I worked with the Planning Commission and Zoning Board, and I'm very proud to have been part of the many developments. I loved working with the developers and seeing their plans come to fruition. I also enjoyed working with the DPW and all the village employees - past and present - and all the residents and businesses who have made it my pleasure to serve them.
"I was born and raised in the Village of Lewiston (yes, I remember when Center Street was a red brick road), and I have seen a lot of progress over the years. I think the village looks great, and is a great place to live."
Welch added, "I want to thank the mayors and the village boards for allowing me to have the best career I could have ever wished for. I want to thank the girls in the office, who are also my family. We have laughed and cried, and sometimes - not often - fought like sisters. But we will still continue our lifelong friendship."
Recreation Department Director Marianne Gittermann will work alongside Salada and Griffith until the board appoints a new clerk/treasurer.