Forty years later, Conway town clerk makes a complicated job look easy

  • Retiring Town Clerk Virginia "Ginny" Knowlton has served Conway for 40 years. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/12/2019 11:14:09 PM

CONWAY — The record for longest tenure as Conway town clerk is 54 years — held by Henry Billings, who served in the role from 1861 to 1915.

But Virginia “Ginny” Knowlton, the current town clerk for 40 years, has no desire to break that record.

“I’m fine with runner-up,” she said with a laugh during a recent interview. “He served until, I think, he was in his 90s.”

Knowlton has worked as town clerk since 1979 and plans to call it a career in the next few months. She has decided not to run for re-election in the May 16 town election. Sheila Harrington, who once ran against Knowlton for the town clerk job, and Laurie Lucier will appear on the ballot after accruing the most votes at the annual town caucus on March 4.

Knowlton, 69, said her enjoyment of the work comes, in part, from her love of the town, of which she is an eighth-generation resident.

“I love meeting the people. I love the fact that I know all these 40-year-old people that I recorded at birth. I love meeting people’s dogs,” she said. “I enjoy working with people that come in. I enjoy just standing here, just spending five minutes visiting with someone when they come in to license their dog or something.”

Knowlton said she has been making notes for whoever replaces her.

“The thing is, nobody has any idea what the job entails. And that’s the scary part,” she said. “Every day … you have to check your state email, you have to check your town email, you have to answer your phone messages, you have to do this, you have to do all the little essentials.

“Sometimes, I’ll come in here and, in three hours, I’m still answering emails,” she continued.

Tom Hutcheson, who has been town administrator since 2013, said Knowlton was a big help since he came on board.

“She’s great — very knowledgeable, very flexible, always going the extra mile for the residents,” he said. “For her, it’s second nature now. She’s quite efficient at what she does.”

In 2016, a ballot question to turn town clerk to an appointed position was rejected.

Knowlton recalls when the Town Office Building was a bank and the town clerk worked out of Town Hall across the street. Her fifth grade was held in an adjacent room and Knowlton would ask to go to the bathroom just so she could visit Violet Parker (the first woman to hold the position). She would ask Parker all sorts of questions and soon developed a fascination for the job.

When she started, the job paid $1 an hour for 10 hours a week. To augment her income, she has had to take various other jobs, including at Brown’s Toy Store in Greenfield, at West County News and as an assistant librarian at Field Memorial Library for about 12 years.

Knowlton has two sons, one in Medway and one in Tennessee. She said she hopes her retirement will free up enough time to spend more with her two grandsons in Medway.

Reach DomenicPoli at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 272.

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