Judy Dise retires after 25 years as Monroe Town Clerk

| 21 Feb 2012 | 11:01

    MONROE-If you stopped into Monroe Town Hall any time in the last 25 years for a marriage license, a birth certificate, to pay a water bill, to get a blasting permit or for a hundred other reasons, you probably talked to Judy Dise. Dise, who grew up in Monroe, retires as Monroe town clerk on June 30. "I am so going to miss the big kid on the bus," said Supervisor Sandy Leonard, who recalls the days when, as children, the two of them rode the bus to school together from the Harriman Heights area. "I looked up to her," said Leonard. "It's really something very special to grow up together and then to work together. We have both seen a lot of changes in the town since our days on the school bus The Town will be hosting a reception in her honor on Sunday, June 12, at the Senior Center on Mine Road. The original plan was for an elegant dinner but Dise declined the offer, preferring instead a more casual affair that anyone and everyone in the town could attend. "I want the opportunity to see as many of them as I can," she said. Dise, who's age falls in what today is being called "the new 40's," worked for nine-and-a-half years as a teller for Citizens of Monroe Bank when a family friend, Republican Committee member Alec Peschel, approached her about running for town clerk. He told her he thought that she would be good at it. Six months shy of being vested in the Citizen's retiremement plan and anxious about leaving the people at the bank she had come to think of as family, she quit to run for town clerk. She faced a Republican primary and won again in the general election in the fall of 1979. Once elected, she was surprised to find that not only did she keep her old "family" but over the years it has become larger and richer than she could have imagined. And she saw that in many ways. In December 2003, her 14-year-old grandson, Jimmy Dise, died after a yearlong battle with leukemia. "The outpouring of love and support from this community was such a comfort," said Dise. More than any other time in her 25 years, this was when her affection for the people she worked with and served for so many years came back to her. In 1980 all the records of the Town Clerk's office were kept by hand. The closest thing to a computer was the copy machine. "We used these big ledgers that had to be tallied and balanced at the end of every day; we still used carbon paper," Dise recalled. The first computer was introduced some time in the 1980's and was only used for tax collection records. The program in use at that time, designed by Frank Avagliano for the Town, is still in use today by the Village of Monroe. In 1990 the collection of taxes was transferred out of the Town Clerk's office. Another aspect of the Town Clerk's job is to work with the Board of Elections. This responsibility has evolved over the years. "Then we had very little to do with elections," she said. "At one time all we did was tallies." Today the responsibility of the Town Clerk's Office is to oversee the process. The first election in which she was involved was in the early 80's regarding the annexation of a parcel of land to the Village of Kiryas Joel. Seven people had to vote. Then a 1992 referendum, the people of Monroe were asked to buy the Sate Police Barracks on Dunderberg Road. The measure passed and has proven to be of financial benefit to the town. However, an error was made. A small number of post cards, advising residents of their polling place, were incorrect. It seems that when one voting district had more labels than post cards, inadvertently a small number of excess cards from another voting district were used. The story made page three of the Times-Herald Record. "The only time, in 25 years." said Dise. Without hesitation, Dise will tell you she is most proud of the home delivered meals program started in 1983. When she was first elected, the program was run by the Jolly Seniors and delivered once a day. Dise was the first town clerk in the county to take over the program. Today, this countywide program has five routes a day in Monroe. "What's most interesting to see is that some of the people who were delivering meals years ago are now receiving them." She added, "The program is always in need of volunteers." Dise has a healthy respect for the people's right of free speech; however, she does admit to wishing that it was to say something positive more often. She thinks that today's town residents short-change themselves by not attending town meetings. She recalled one meeting in the early 1980s at the height of the gypsy moth infestation and the town was spraying trees. "People came to the Town Board meeting wearing World War II type gas masks," she said. While she appreciated the point that they were trying to make, "it was funny." In 1980, Judy first worked under Supervisor John DeAngelis. "He really cared about the employees of Monroe. He always told us, ‘You're public employees, not public servants.'" Years ago Judy and her husband John, who is retired from a nuclear facility in Sterling Forest, bought a parcel of land in Sullivan County. It was an investment, intended to help fund their retirement. Instead they have spent the last couple of years building a home there. The Dise' children are now living in Sullivan County. Their new home in Tusten is 15 minutes from one son and ½ hour from the other. With a year round population of about 1,500, Dise said of her new hometown, "I feel like I'm moving back to the Monroe of 25 years ago." So what's next? "I love to cook," she said, "I never really had the time. I've been putting my cookbooks in order and I'm looking forward to entertaining all the wonderful friends I've made over the years." The new house will need decorating and landscaping and, of course. lots of boxes will need to be unpacked. Dise said she imagined she and her husband being alone together all day, for the first time in many years. "We'll be at each other's throats" before long, she laughed. When asked if another job is in her future, she responded, "I know that everything happens for a reason. My house here in Monroe hasn't yet sold. I believe it is a blessing so that we can move into our new home at our own pace." "Last year I had attended a RSVP program, a network of national service programs that provides older Americans the opportunity to apply their life experience to meeting community needs) and wondered if there was one in Sullivan. The very next day a column in the Times-Herald Record was about the Sullivan County RSVP. "I expect that I will become involved in volunteer work of some kind." Deputy Town Clerk Mary Ellen Beams will take over on July 1 and in November, Monroe residents will not see Judy Dise's name on the ballot. The only qualification for the job, Dise noted, is that the candidate be a town resident. "Unofficially, you need to be naturally organized; it's a lot of paperwork. Also, you need to have the ability to listen and to treat everyone as you wish to be treated." Dise recalled a day when office clerk Patti Kasch, having just done some business with a resident, commented on what a nice person that was. Thinking that it said so much about our rushed lives today, Dise replied: "Once upon a time, they were all nice."