North Yarmouth's 'Jill of all trades' marks 30 years with town

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NORTH YARMOUTH — Debbie Grover’s job with the town has been anything but boring since she came on board 30 years ago.

Reflecting in an interview July 26 on some of her more offbeat experiences, the assistant town manager remembered the time an irate resident – thinking a Public Works truck had destroyed his mailbox – brought the box to Town Hall, demanding it be replaced.

Learning that’s not the town’s policy, he then stormed outside and drop-kicked the mailbox across the parking lot.

“The ironic piece is, the next customer coming in works for the U.S. Postal Service,” a bemused Grover recalled. “He had a good chuckle.”

There was also the time in the late 1980s when a man, who had accidentally sliced his arm open and wrapped the bleeding appendage in duct tape, stumbled into Town Hall, asked for help, and collapsed. Grover, alone at the front counter in the two-person office, cared for the man before medical help arrived.

“He came back weeks later (and said) “‘thank you, because I think you saved my life,'” Grover recalled. She replied, “‘Uh, you’re welcome, no problem, anytime.'”

And then, of course, there have been the administrative duties of the assistant town manager, what Grover calls her career as “a Jill of all trades:” town clerk, human resources, accounts payable, payroll, overseeing cemeteries and taking meeting minutes and writing warrants, to name a few.

The cemeteries and town clerk responsibilities are her favorites. The books, not so much.

“I could never get bored,” Grover, 51, said. “We’re so busy, and you’re always jumping from one subject to the next. You can’t get bored, but you can definitely get burned out because there’s so much to do and never enough time to get it done.”

Yoga helps relieve stress, as does talking with her co-workers.

“We’re a good group, a small group,” she said. “If anybody needs help … we pitch in.”

Municipal career

Grover’s career in town operations began right out of high school in 1985, when she became a part-time finance clerk in Cumberland. She then spent two years as a finance clerk and deputy town clerk in Freeport, and started work in North Yarmouth on Aug. 1, 1987.

From the beginning Grover wore many hats, serving as second-in-command to then-Administrative Assistant Scott Seaver, who now has that job in Pownal.

“It was just Scott Seaver and I: a two-man team,” Grover said. “He held all the titles, and I was deputy everything he was.”

She officially became town clerk in 2008 when the Town Charter was revised, and assistant town clerk two years ago.

“I kind of feel like I grew up here, in a way,” she said. “I got married while working here, divorced while working here, had my kids while working here, remarried while working here.”

She and her husband have six children together, but “no, we’re not the Brady Bunch,” she said, laughing. “And after 30 years, I’m finally moving into town.”

Which really won’t be much of a change for Grover. “In the last 30 years, I’ve been on this side of the line more than over there (in Cumberland), she said.

Good days, and the rest

The job “definitely has its challenging moments,” Grover said, referring to “residents where, no matter what you do, you can’t make them happy, no matter how hard you try. And tax time is always a challenge, because it’s always about killing the messenger, and the girls (in the front office) and I are first up to take their money.”

But the rewards from her work come in part through the thanks she receives.

That gratitude often stems from endeavors Grover undertakes outside the office, such as procuring cemetery memorials for North Yarmouth’s forgotten military veterans, arranging local escorts for living veterans traveling to Washington, D.C., through the Honor Flight program, and bolstering awareness about NET cancer, an unusual disease that develops from cells in the endocrine system and has impacted people close to her.

“I guess that’s what’s kept me here, is the people,” Grover said.

People are also the biggest change she’s experienced in three decades.

“When I first starting working for North Yarmouth, I knew everybody that came through the door, for the most part,” Grover said. “Now, not so much. A lot of new faces. But it’s nice to welcome them to the town.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Debbie Grover, North Yarmouth’s assistant town manager, has worked for the town for three decades.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.