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Time to take her fingers off the pulse of Hartland

No one has her finger on the pulse of a Niagara County community better than the town clerk.

The town clerk is probably the first one you see at Town Hall if you have any questions concerning community affairs. You go to her, or him, if you need a hunting or dog or marriage license. She's the one who records the minutes for the Town Board and often the Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board, as well. She's the one who fields complaints and answers questions and generally represents the town supervisor, who is often part-time, while she is at Town Hall full time.

Beverly B. Snell, 64, has served as town clerk for the Town of Hartland since 1988 and recently announced that she is stepping down from that post. She has been appointed part-time deputy clerk so will help new Town Clerk Cindy Boyler, who has been appointed to fill Snell's elected position for the remainder of her unexpired term, through the new year.

Snell was elected to the post every four years and never faced an opponent.

She and her husband, Don, opened a convenience store/auto repair shop at Ridge and Hartland roads a year ago, and Snell's new role as shop owner has kept her working dawn to dusk, aiding in her decision to leave her town clerk position early.

Always affable and knowledgeable about a wide variety of topics, Snell has been the go-to girl at Hartland Town Hall for nearly a quarter-century but vows to continue to keep up with news of her beloved community while serving customers in her new shop.

>How did you become interested in becoming town clerk in the first place?

The prior clerk, Jean Golden, had retired after 27 years, and Highway Superintendent Keith Hurtgam is a friend of my husband's, and he asked me if I was interested in running for it. I was working for EDS in Lockport at the time. The supervisor was [and still is] William "Bill" Annable, and I knew of him because he had been my daughter's teacher and even my husband's coach! I have had the privilege of sharing town responsibilities with him my entire tenure. I can honestly say he is my dearest friend and confidant. I have been blessed to have served with a supervisor of such high integrity.

>Was the job what you expected?

I was scared to death! When you come into the town clerk's office, you have no idea what the town clerk does. But Deputy Clerk Flo Fuller really helped me because she had been a good listener all of those years and knew how to do things.

>What was the best part of the job?

The people -- meeting, talking and listening to the people -- and working with my peers, a really good group of people. And I loved traveling New York State with the New York State Town Clerks Association.

Everybody needs to talk to someone, and a lot of people don't listen anymore. If you are a good listener, people really appreciate it. And when you called us at Town Hall, you always got a live human being to speak to. That's one of my pet peeves, because I hate recordings. We always answered the phone and guided people for help. I always felt the people are paying my salary, and I owed them to pick up the phone and try and be personable.

>So after all of these years at the job, how do you define it?

The clerk has to understand all of the zoning codes, and I also served as the water clerk, so I had to know about that, where meters were located, how to solve problems. I was the registrar for vital statistics, births [at home] and deaths, and I was records management officer. I issued licenses for hunting and dogs -- we have 1,000 dogs in the town -- and I handled the complaints from neighbors about dogs. That's probably the down part of the job. Issuing marriage licenses was fun because that's a happy time.

If anybody has a problem or a question, they seem to go to the town clerk. Whether it's finding out about school closings or wanting to know a phone number, they call us. I also had to fill in for the zoning officer and assessor when they weren't there. It's a huge variety of jobs, it's so diversified, and you really have to multitask and be good at problem-solving.

>You and your husband opened Snell's Gas'n'Go, at 8393 Ridge Road, one year ago. How is that going?

I've been opening the store at 5:30 a.m. and staying until 9 a.m. and then going to Town Hall and going back to the shop after I leave Town Hall, but my husband has been closing up. I'll be spending more time there now.

It's been a heck of a lot of work, but I've made a whole new bunch of friends. If I don't hear the news at Town Hall, I hear it at the store. We're one of three stores in Hartland, with N.E.S. Food Outlet next-door and Chapman's Market in Johnson's Creek. We're a little different because we have the garage repair business, but we're still searching for our niche, something to fill a need in the community.

>So, while you're retiring from the full-time town clerk's position after 24 years, you're not going to be entirely retired, are you?

We'd like to do some traveling and spend more time with our grandchildren, who are 11, 8 and 4, and live in the neighborhood. I lived on Ridge Road as a child in Orleans County, I worked in Town Hall on the Ridge, our house is on the Ridge, and our business is on the Ridge. I've never left the Ridge!

>What do you like best about the town you've served for so long?

Hartland is a neat little town. It's unusual in that we don't have a school, post office, bank or library. We have a population of 4,200, and we're 56 square miles. It's so rural and there used to be so many farms when I started, but now there are only a few. It's a beautiful, peaceful, rural town with little dissention or turmoil and has been a great place to live and an honor to serve.

e-mail: niagaranews@buffnews.com

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