GLENBURN, Maine — The town will say goodbye to its town clerk, registrar of voters and deputy town treasurer at the end of the month. They are three very different roles, but for 36 years they have been held by the same person.
Ruthena Brasslett, who since the fall of 1974 has been a quiet force overseeing a town that was once the fastest-growing in Penobscot County, will retire on March 31.
Until then, as local news organizations get in line to tell her story, she is busy tying up loose ends and training her replacement. She granted one more interview on Wednesday, and in a small office adorned with pictures of her family, and with the colleagues she has grown fond of over the years just outside the door, she recalled her time in public administration.
Brasslett, who grew up in Bradford and later graduated from what was then called East Corinth Academy, moved to Glenburn in 1969 sometime after meeting her husband, Raylan, at a square dance. Soon after getting married, they built a house that happened to be in close proximity to the municipal building in Glenburn.
Brasslett began her multiple roles with the town in October 1974. When she arrived, the only other employee in the office was the town manager. Her duties included overseeing elections, handling the town’s money, and dealing with residents and local issues as the town clerk.
Brasslett had no prior experience in public administration. She had previously worked at her father-in-law’s convenience store and for a short time as an assistant in her high school’s office.
Working in the town office, she learned that no day was exactly the same — and to expect anything.
“It’s hard to classify a regular day. You may anticipate getting a lot of work done, but it never happens that way. You just never know what’s going to happen,” she said, laughing.
She recalled the morning when she arrived at work only to learn that a donkey was roaming freely through the streets of Glenburn. Brasslett and other town officials spent nearly the rest of the day trying to capture it. Eventually, they were able to herd it into a gated basketball court.
Brasslett said she is most surprised by how technology has changed her workplace. She expressed amazement at how most of her work is now paperless and pointed to a computer in her office that acts as a centralized voting system. It is connected to records in Augusta and allows her to view the names of all of Maine’s registered voters. That helps to prevent duplicate voting and makes the job of registrar of voters all the easier, she said.
But she is reluctant to give up her electronic typewriter, which still rests atop a small desk in her office. She fills out forms and occasionally writes letters with it. “I can’t let it go,” she said.
Even though she will miss the friendships she has forged over the years and the level of socializing that comes with working in a town office, Brasslett is welcoming her retirement with open arms.
“I’ve always been a busy woman, and now I can focus on other things,” she said.
Retirement for Brasslett will mean spending more time with her daughter, who lives in Arizona with her family, and her two sons, who live in Glenburn with their families. She is an avid gardener and is looking forward to planting more flowers in her greenhouse. During the summer, she’ll be spending more time at her camp on Cobscook Bay with her husband.
“The council thanks her for 36 years of dedicated service to the town,” said Michael O’Connor, chairman of the Glenburn Town Council. “In today’s world, it is very rare to have such a talented and dependable employee serve a single employer for that long.”