OSSIPEE — A changing of the guard is taking place at Town Hall as Town Administrator Martha Eldridge, who has worked for the town for nearly 30 years, will retire Feb. 14.
Town Assessor Ellen White will fill Eldridge’s shoes. In the meantime, Eldridge is training White as the town enters into its busy town meeting, budget and election cycle.
Eldridge, 65, began her career as a receptionist/secretary at town offices in June 1985, gradually took over payroll and more administrative duties and was named to the newly created position of town administrator in August 1999 after then-selectmen Joe Skehan suggested splitting tax assessing and administrative duties into separate positions. In a recent interview, Eldridge said over the years she helped make Ossipee Town Hall and government open to people.
“I felt I opened the door to town hall enough so that people could feel comfortable coming here to ask questions,” said Eldridge, explaining that in the early years town hall did not open to the public until 11:30 a.m.
“I wanted it to feel like a friendly place where people could come in and ask questions about their taxes and assessments,” she said.
Foot traffic increased greatly after that. In recent years, traffic has decreased due to improved technology making tax and assessment information available online to residents, she noted.
“People, dealing with people,” replied Eldridge when asked what she liked most about her job. Variety is another aspect of her job. “You can have a new boss every year … it takes you a year and a half to train a new selectmen. You never know what situation you’ll face when you come through that door, but luckily you’ve got so many agencies and offices, people waiting to help you,” said Eldridge.
White, 33, began her career with the Ossipee in 2011 when she was hired as assessing clerk. She earned an associate degree in accounting and taxation and worked in the private sector, at Ward’s Boat Shop. The town administrator position appealed to her as a fresh challenge.
“I’ve always been a go-getter, trying to achieve as much as I can. I don’t like to be bored, so I constantly take on additional projects,” said White. “It’s been part of the learning curve at the assessing office, and seeing and learning how the town functions as a whole,” she said.
In recent weeks, White’s training includes attending and taking minutes at board of selectmen meetings, attending budget committee workshops, formatting the new town report and working on required state forms.
White was one of two internal applicants for the job.
“She has excellent organizational skills, and those have already been apparent all over the building,” said Eldridge.
“I have a great ability to work with the public and I’m not afraid to learn and figure out solutions if there’s something I don’t know how to do,” White said.
How will she approach her first day on the job? “Dive in feet first. My biggest thing now is to get through town meeting,” said White.
Eldridge has no doubts that the new administrator will succeed.
“Knowing Ellen will be taking over makes my leaving a lot easier,” said Eldridge. “I don’t have any doubt she’ll do a great job. It’s a smart move on the (selectmen’s) part,” she said.
White lives in Effingham with husband Ed White, an electrician, and son Hayden, 5.