Gerry Shaw To Retire
Executive Assistant Will Be Feted with A Reception at Town Hall
The town will mark the upcoming retirement of long-time Executive Assistant Geraldine Shaw with a farewell drop-in reception on Wednesday, December 20, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the town hall. January 2 will be her last day in the office, 48 years, 6 months and two days after she first started at the Town Hall on July 1, 1975.
“We wish her well on her next adventure, and thank her for sharing her wisdom, expertise and good humor these past 48 years,” reads the invitation on Facebook. The invitation is for all who knew her as the liaison to their local government.
“I was hired to work as the assistant to the town’s accountant,” she remembered when we sat down to talk about the past 48 years. But pretty soon then-First Selectman Russ Stoddard hired her to assist him in his office, and from there she served seven first selectmen, namely Russ Stoddard, Nan Birdwhistell, Roger Harrison, Amey Marrella, Ed Sheehy, Ellen Scalettar, and Beth Heller.
“I love the job, I love the people, she said. But with a new administration starting at Town Hall this year, she felt it was a good time to move on. It will give her time to travel and visit great-grandchildren, and to enjoy her hobbies – mainly road trips to nurseries far and wide; embroidery and volunteering for her church in Bethany.
Her seat behind the big counter at the heart of the Town Hall has a direct view down the hallway; that’s where she spent most of her time, even during the pandemic, when the town hall was technically closed.
“I was here,” she said, simply. “I couldn’t work remotely. We’d stay in our own little spot.” Residents would call rather than walk in when they needed information.
Gerry Shaw frequently served as the bastion at Town Hall. She would come in even when snow storms had everyone hunkering down. “A couple of times Public Works picked me up and brought me here,” she said, chuckling. Somebody needed to field phone calls from residents.
When she first started, back in 1975, they worked in a corner of what is now the main meeting room. During the subsequent renovation, everyone worked in that room together. “It was interesting,” she said.
“You have to able to work with people,” she said. “You have to remember they are not screaming at you, but at the situation. Most people are very understanding.”
Few people know the recent history of the town like she does. Hurricanes Gloria, Sandy and Irene; the flooding of the Town Hall, she has seen several renovations since then, departments being moved around.
What has changed most for the job is the role that technology plays. When she first started, she had a typewriter; then an electric typewriter; then a word processor and finally, computers. Back in the day they would send out notices to residents by mail.
“We used to type address labels,” she remembered. “I would take them home, and my hubby and the kids and I would put the labels on.” She used to deliver the packets with documents to the selectmen’s homes. Now everything is scanned and sent electronically.
The late First Selectman Ed Sheehy paid tribute to Gerry Shaw back in 2012, when Massaro Farm honored her at a farm dinner. “She is the same in private as she is in public,” he said at the time. “She always has a friendly and hopeful attitude. Always willing to make that extra effort and take the extra time to get it right.”
Gerry Shaw grew up in Westville, and graduated from Hillhouse High School. But even as a child she remembers coming to Woodbridge, which was very much a village with farms at the time. They would come to get fresh vegetables and to skate on Konold’s Pond in the winter. Her husband’s father owned Creamline Dairy Farm in Bethany, and they would visit. Finally, they found a property on Sperry Road in Bethay, and built their house there.
Later, she found out that her great-grandmother was Henrietta Downs, of a prominent Woodbridge family; and her father was a descendent of the Sperry family. “I am right where I belong,” she said, with a smile.
This is an opinion not necessarily endorsed by the Woodbridge Town News.