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Wilson town clerk reflects on a career that started with a typing job

WILSON – What started as a former supervisor’s request to occasionally “type a few letters” turned into a 30-year career at Wilson Town Hall for Wanda E. Burrows, she recently recalled with a chuckle.

Known throughout the community for her kindly demeanor and municipal knowledge, Burrows will retire Dec. 31 after serving as Wilson town clerk for the past 17 years.

Her boss for the past decade, Supervisor Joseph Jastrzemski, also leaves office Dec. 31. He was elected in November to the post of Niagara County clerk. Doyle Phillips will take over the town’s top job Jan. 1.

“Wanda is one of the most loyal people I have ever had the pleasure to work with,” said Jastrzemski. “She’s very conscientious and reliable and dedicated to the town and the people she serves.

“I learned so much from her and I know it will help me as I move forward as county clerk,” he added. “It’s been a pleasure and honor to work with her. I know the office will miss her, but she’s leaving it in very competent hands with Diane Muscoreil and Julie Godfrey.”

Muscoreil, Burrows’ deputy clerk for the past 17 years, was elected to fill Burrows’ seat and will begin Jan. 1. Godfrey will serve as her full-time deputy, with Marilyn Dinse as part-time deputy.

“I am so fortunate to have worked under such an outstanding town clerk for the past 17 years,” said Muscoreil. “The experience I have gained will hopefully help me in my new role as town clerk, but I will always keep Wanda’s phone number on speed dial.

“I am excited about continuing the services and friendly atmosphere that the residents of the Town of Wilson have come to expect from the town clerk’s office under Wanda’s years as clerk,” she added.

Burrows earned numerous awards through the years. She was named District 10 Clerk of the Year by the New York State Clerks Association and a “Woman of Distinction” by the Niagara County Federation of Republican Women. She also was the Wilson Lions Club’s “Citizen of the Year” in 2011.

Burrows recently took a few minutes from her busy day to discuss her career and what lies ahead in retirement.

Were you from Wilson originally?

No, I was from Niagara Falls and moved here my senior year of high school. I fell in love with Wilson – it’s a great place to be.

I met my husband, Don, in high school and we got married two years later and we moved to his family’s farm on North Beebe Road. His family were fruit growers.

So you went to work on the farm?

Yes. We grew everything – apples, peaches, pears, cherries, nectarines and grapes. We’re leasing the property out now, but my husband is still running Burrows’ Welding, repairing farm equipment.

So how did you make the move to town hall?

Harold Mosher was the supervisor and he was looking for someone to type some letters for him. My son and daughter were getting a little older, so I said, ‘Sure.’ Then they needed me occasionally in the water department and then in the assessor’s office, so I was a part-time clerk who moved around.

How did you become part of the town clerk’s office?

Marilyn Allgeier was the clerk for 34 years. She asked me to come in as her deputy and then she was elected supervisor. The Town Board appointed me town clerk in 1998 and then I was elected during the next election.

List some of the duties that town clerks have.

The town clerk is a notary public and the records management officer for the town, as well as license-issuing officer and keeper of the minutes. We also prepare all of the bills for the town.

When people come into town hall, the first office they see is the town clerk’s office and we answer questions, give directions, provide phone numbers and steer people in the right direction. You really get to see the public and that’s another great part of this job.

What has been one of your fondest memories of the job?

The teachers bring the younger students over from school and they are the dearest little things. They take a tour of the building and I try and make sure we have a councilman here to talk to them. They visit the assessor’s office and love to see it when the assessor brings their houses up on the computer.

And, they’ll just drop in and see me, too, for a few minutes, and bring me little gifts. They just brought me a little snowman yesterday. I’m really going to miss that.

What plans do you have for retirement?

My husband and I belong to the Empire State Antique Trucks Club. He has a 1932 Ford “B” stake truck and a 1951 Chevy half-ton pick-up. We enjoy traveling with that group.

I’m a life member of the Wilson Historical Society and longtime trustee. I make all of the arrangements for the school kids to visit our 1861 one-room schoolhouse, which was moved to the grounds in August 1996, so I’ll still get to see the kids who visit.

And I want to spend time with my grandchildren. We have three granddaughters and a grandson and some live away, so now we’ll have time to visit.

Will it be hard to leave town hall?

The town is in great shape right now. We have a good Town Board and Diane started in the clerk’s office when I did and she’s keeping the two deputies. They’re all well trained and good with customers. It’s important to make people feel welcome at town hall and I think that’s the reputation we have.

Know a Niagara County resident who would make an interesting question-and-answer column? Write to: Niagara Weekend Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or email niagaranews@buffnews.com.