Newport honors longtime election clerk

Posted June 03, 2010, at 6:34 p.m.

NEWPORT, Maine — Dolores “Dot” Fernald has come to know a lot of people in her 48 years living in Newport, but she knows the registered voters the best.

That’s because Fernald, 86, has been a ballot clerk in Newport elections stretching back at least 25 years. Fernald retired from her post after last November’s election, said Newport Town Clerk Paula Scott.

“It’s meeting the people that’s my favorite,” said Fernald, who received a surprise certificate of appreciation from the Newport Board of Selectmen on Wednesday night. “But I always stay until the end when everything is counted.”

Fernald said she didn’t know why family members brought her to Wednesday’s meeting.

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“You want me to come up there?” she said when board Chairman Thomas Breitweg called her to the front of the room and introduced her as the longest-serving ballot clerk Newport has had in recent memory.

“This is very, very nice,” said Fernald.

Scott said Fernald’s institutional memory and knowledge about election procedures weren’t the only ways she was valuable on Election Day. She also kept things interesting.

“She’s a very accomplished dancer,” said Scott. “If someone had a radio on, she’d break right out in a jitterbug. She’s a riot.” Fernald also has been known to entertain when there was a piano available.

Fernald, a Democrat, was equally cordial to everyone regardless of party, said Scott, noting that greeting Dot Fernald is an Election Day tradition for many Newport residents.

“She’s an icon,” said Scott. “In a lot of situations over the years, it’s always been good to have that experience there. She’s just been … steady, and I will really miss her.”

Fernald said just because she’s retired from her election post doesn’t mean she’s slowing down. She’s still a member of the Sebasticook Valley Hospital Auxiliary and very active around her home, including snowblowing in winter and mowing her large lawn. And she’ll still be available to help if she’s needed.

“People will still call me to see what time the polls open,” she said.

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