Citing burnout — especially from conducting elections — Heidi Noel Grindle, Ellsworth’s longtime city clerk, has submitted her resignation and is leaving to take a job in the private sector.
Grindle said she decided to look for another job after the 2020 presidential election. Last week, when City Hall was closed in the days prior to the Nov. 2 election because too much of her staff tested positive for COVID, reinforced her decision.
Grindle, a Surry resident who started working for the city in 1996 and has held the city clerk position since 2005, is taking a job working in the accounts payable department at Bar Harbor Banking & Trust. Her last day of work for the city will be Nov. 18.
“Mostly, it’s the election process,” Grindle said.
She said that increasing accusations over the integrity of elections — despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud — has aggravated her fatigue over the challenge of managing polling locations, election workers, and handling absentee ballots.
She said that when City Hall ws closed last week and she was short-staffed, she accepted roughly 50 absentee ballots through her first-floor office window from voters standing outside the building — and at least once got a snide comment about not losing or misplacing the ballot.
“It’s getting progressively harder,” Grindle said. “The regulations, the public perception of it. I don’t want my personal integrity to be questioned every time.”
Glenn Moshier, the city manager, said Friday that Grindle has done an “outstanding” job for Ellsworth.
“She has been a valued employee of the city for 25 years and has filled a variety of critical roles here at City Hall,” Moshier said. “She will be greatly missed and is leaving behind very large shoes to fill.”
Dale Hamilton, chairman of the City Council, said Grindle is “exceptionally bright” and has been a dedicated employee.
“I think the quality that has defined Heidi in this role is her integrity,” Hamilton said. “Her knowledge, work ethic and ability to work with a diverse group of personalities will be missed.”
Grindle said she has felt supported by other city staff and officials, but she thinks the city clerk job would benefit from having someone else with fresh energy and perspective in the role.
Voters in two of Ellsworth’s four voting wards cast their ballots at City Hall, which is getting increasingly crowded on election days, she said.
There are few other places in the city that are suitable to use as polling places, which have to have adequate parking, be handicapped accessible, and have enough space to manage lines and to set up tables and voting booths.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has complicated things, Grindle said, but she doesn’t see elections getting easier to stage, even if the pandemic subsides. The politics surrounding just how elections are held, the likely permanence of increased absentee voting and even Ellsworth’s increasing population will continue to be a challenge for the city clerk’s office.
“The city is about to boom in a lot of directions, but my brain is tired,” she said. “It’s been a lot of ad-libbing.”
Grindle, who started part-time and worked as assistant to the city manager, tax clerk, and assistant deputy treasurer before getting the city clerk’s job, said she is leaving with fond memories. She said she is proud of the work she has done and that she has been “blessed with an amazing staff.”
She said she has enjoyed working with local business owners in making sure they have needed business licenses, with members of the public who have come in looking for copies of vital records, and believes the clerk’s office has become more user-friendly under her leadership.
“I love the city,” she said. “It’s been an adventure watching it grow, but I am excited to try something different.”