Longtime South Portland city clerk to retire

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Susan Mooney hasn’t had a summer free of work since she was 13.

But that will change next year.

Mooney, now 57, said she will retire in November from her position as city clerk, after working 39 years for the city. She said she agreed to stay through the upcoming general election.

The City Council will appoint her successor.

During her time with the city, Mooney has worked in six different positions for five city managers.

Mooney graduated from Gorham High School in 1979. That summer, she landed a six-week job helping city staff compile tax assessing information.

At the end of the summer, a woman from the Finance Department happened to leave her position as clerk cashier, and Mooney enthusiastically filled it.

“Every time a job ended, or I was ready to leave, something presented itself,” she said Wednesday in her City Hall office.

Mooney went on to do payroll for the city and the School Department for a few years before she landed a data manager position. “It was a huge opportunity for me,” she said: a big-shot title while still in her early 20s.

Over the next eight years, as the city got its first computer system, Mooney was responsible for converting files and records to build its first electronic database.

Mooney continued up the ladder and served as deputy tax collector and treasurer for 12 years, where, among other things, she was responsible for compiling the city budget in a single document.

Just as she was beginning to feel a bit antsy, she said, the role of city clerk presented itself, after Linda Cohen, now the mayor, left the post to become city clerk in Portland.

“I thought, well, maybe I’ll be city clerk,” Mooney recalled.

Fourteen years later, Mooney is confident about her decision to retire.

“The cars and the house are paid off, the kids (have graduated) from college. I have a chance to say, what’s the next big step?” she said. “I’ve always been in touch with myself to know when to make a change. This feels right. I told my husband, ‘I think I just want to try being a housewife for a while.'”

Mooney said she has loved working for the city, and couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to work with.

“This city has always been very good to me,” she said. “It’s a very strong organization with great leadership. I would say it’s one of the best communities in the state of Maine, in my biased opinion.”

Mooney said she wants to take six months to a year off, and fill it with painting, yard and house work, riding her bike, and continuing to refine new-found hobbies, like playing the guitar.

Mostly, she said, “I just want to be outside more.”

After that, she added, maybe she’ll work part time or take a class; she’s concertedly trying to not make definite plans.

“I kind of fully expect that something will come along and fall into place,” Mooney said.

She said she would absolutely not run for City Council.

“I can honestly say you’re never going to see me take out papers for City Council,” Mooney said, although she may entertain a something more low-key, like membership on the Energy and Recycling Committee.

Cohen said Mooney’s nearly four-decade devotion to City Hall seems rare, but is frequently seen in municipalities.

“I don’t think anyone stays in the same job as long as people used to,” she said Monday. “But clerks and municipal government in general often buck that trend. When local government gets into your system, you fall in love and tend to stay a while. The clerk’s job touches so many people, is so varied and is at the heart of the democratic process. It grabs you, and you stay.”

While she’s ready to leave, Mooney said she knows that dismantling her daily routine could be disorienting.

“It’s a long time coming into this building every week and leaving it at the end,” she said. “It’s hard knowing how that’s going to feel two months out.”

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

Sidebar Elements

South Portland City Clerk Susan Mooney will retire in November after working 39 years for the city.

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.