Naida Parker reflects on her career as Rochester Town Clerk
ROCHESTER — Naida Parker has been the Town Clerk of Rochester since 1984, and on Friday, Feb. 7 she will retire after serving the town for longer than any other clerk before her.
Parker said that a lot has changed since 1984. Technology is perhaps the best example of that. “When I started, we were using a typewriter,” she said. Now much of her work is done on a computer.
The town’s old ballot box used a mechanical crank to process votes. After her first midterm election, Parker said she was up until 3 or 4 a.m., tallying votes. Now, results are calculated within minutes after the polls close.
Census data was once collected manually at the Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School. As technology evolved, the state demanded that information be sent on a 5-inch floppy disk, but the school was only equipped to use an 8-inch disk at the time, so Parker had to find an alternative, under threat of arrest by the State Police.
“We’ve all been on a learning curve, as technology has advanced,” she said.
The town has changed in the years since she’s been Town Clerk as well. Rochester remains rural and spacious, but the population has grown from just over 3,000 residents, to nearly 6,000. Parker said it has also become more of a “bedroom community,” as the strong school system, has drawn in young families.
Parker is most proud of her efforts to preserve historical documents.
In November of 1998, Parker helped to preserve the Town’s first volume of Proprietor’s “Records and Vitals,” which included historical information from 1669 to 1736.
These books contain records that towns must keep, and can also help answer questions from the public, especially for those researching genealogy.
Parker said that “the Town Clerk is the keeper of a lot of that,” explaining why she felt so important to preserve historic books.
The pages were glued onto the original book in scrapbook style. To preserve them, the town had the pages taken from the scrapbook, and deacidified. The pages were then placed in clear envelopes to prevent them from being damaged.
To be successful as a Town Clerk, Parker said that one must have good public skills, to be able to listen to people, and help them find exactly what they are looking for.
She also said that the ability to say “no” is important. In many cases, involves explaining why something can’t be done in a certain way, and offering an alternative based on town precedent.
With the 2020 Federal Census and presidential election on the horizon, Parker said that this February “just seems like a good time to let someone else come in” as Rochester’s Town Clerk.
After retiring, she said that she plans on spending more time with her great Danes, Witchy and Promise, and judging in American Kennel Club dog shows.
She also goes to the Gleason Family YMCA three or four times per week, and has considered volunteering there to help other seniors.
While she will no longer work as Town Clerk, Parker said she isn’t worried about finding things to keep her busy in her retirement. “From other people who have retired, they tell me they don’t know how they found time to work,” she said.
Parker is the 37th Town Clerk of Rochester, and her career of 35 years and 10 months is the longest that anyone has served since the position started in 1697.