Longtime East Lyme town clerk retires amid salutes, laughs

East Lyme - There was just one thing to say, really.

"I decided I'm not going to retire," longtime Town Clerk Esther Williams proclaimed at her retirement party at Town Hall Thursday.

Though Williams was emotional about leaving a job that has consumed her for 45 years, her last day at work was filled with her signature good humor and jokes from colleagues about how long she's been town clerk.

A slide show included an image of Williams swearing in Abraham Lincoln, and First Selectman Paul Formica joked that Williams had been around so long that she was there to record the preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

All kidding aside, Formica said, Williams ran "a superlative department full of not only efficient service but of laughter and love and affection for the townspeople that she served every day."

Family, friends and colleagues both current and past stopped by to wish Williams well and hand her bouquets of flowers.

Formica's executive assistant, Darlene Stevens, arranged for local businesses to donate food for the party. Stevens said the town will hang a photo of Williams in the meeting room where various boards and commissions meet. Williams' will be the first portrait to hang in that room that doesn't depict a former first selectman.

"It's a real honor that I can be here with all these other old guys," she deadpanned.

Williams' parting gifts included $450 to use for post-retirement travels with her husband Bob Williamson and a lifetime town beach pass, which Formica joked would be "valid from November to May every year."

Stevens, who has worked for the town for 23 years, said the Town Hall was like "a small family." Former employees who came to bid Williams farewell Thursday included Judy Layden, who worked in the finance office, and Jackie Lamourine, who worked in the tax office.

Like Williams, the retired employees are part of Niantic Center School's (eighth-grade) Class of 1952. Williams was the last alum from that class to retire from Town Hall, Lamourine said.

"I'm grateful for your friendship," Williams told the crowd. "I'm grateful for everything you've ever done for me. I'm going to really miss being in that office. ... This is the best job in the world."

j.cho@theday.com

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