By Christine Galeone, Contributing Writer
Southborough – In the 1960s, when Austin Kelly, a former Southborough town clerk, suggested to Paul Berry that the World War II veteran would be right for the position of town clerk, Berry was a little skeptical, but he said “I’ll tell you what: I will!”
After 45 years of faithfully serving the people of Southborough, Berry is now sure he made the right decision. In February, however, the devoted town clerk will retire from the office, where he has made a difference in the lives of generations of Southborough citizens who voted him, mostly unopposed, in every election since 1969.
Among his many successes, the friendly town clerk said one of the most important ones happened recently. When Southborough residents “voted to keep the town clerk an elected office,” rather than an appointed one, the 86-year old Berry was happy that he had been able to convince them that the town clerk should be elected by the people to serve the people.
“I think it should remain an elected office,” he said.
The cooperation among the public servants was also something that gave him great satisfaction over the years. He said that some of the greatest success “was in getting help from a lot of the town clerks. We constantly helped each other out.”
True to this spirit of integrity, Berry found helping the folks of Southborough to be the most enjoyable part of his work. He said that, in town, one of the first places people go when they have a problem is the town clerk’s office.
“Meeting the people and helping people, especially when people have problems – to me, that’s very enjoyable,” said Berry. “People come in with a sad face, and they leave with a smile on their face.”
Even though the number of those people – the residents of Southborough – has doubled since he was first elected to the position, Berry didn’t let the increase of people and, subsequently, work discourage him from being a true public servant.
With a sincere enthusiasm booming in his otherwise gentle voice, Berry said “I have really, really enjoyed being town clerk. I’ve met a lot of great people. To my knowledge, I can’t think of anyone I didn’t enjoy working with. It was very, very enjoyable.”
That positive attitude and welcoming personality will surely remain with him as he retires from the office he dedicated himself to for most of his life. But his dedication, work ethic and integrity should also remain in town as his legacy. In February, when he retires, Michelle Jenkins, the assistant town clerk, will take the role of interim town clerk until the Annual Town Election is held in May.
Although Berry – who once owned his own milk delivery business in town – admitted that he doesn’t know yet what his next adventure will be, he said that he will “probably have more time on my hands. I’ll just take it from day to day and hope everything goes great, and I stay healthy, and I just enjoy life without having to come to work every day.”