Lyme tax collector retires after 18 years

Lyme Tax Collector Linda Ward, seen Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, at Lyme Town Hall, has retired after 18 years. (Kimberly Drelich/The Day)
Lyme Tax Collector Linda Ward, seen Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, at Lyme Town Hall, has retired after 18 years. (Kimberly Drelich/The Day)

Lyme — Residents paying their tax bills will see a new face at Town Hall, as Cynthia Beers steps into her new position as tax collector.

Linda Ward, the town's longtime tax collector, retired Friday after 18 years.

A sixth-generation Lyme resident, Ward attended the Lyme Consolidated School, which is located right by Town Hall. Her grandfather, Allen Bartman, was a state representative for Lyme, and her father, Herb Bartman, helped build the Hadlyme Fire Station and served as fire chief.

After graduating from high school, Ward studied at Becker College in Worcester, Mass. After college, she went to work in the engineering department at Pratt & Whitney and then in the corporate office at Pratt-Read, where she worked until her first child was born. She and her husband have three sons.

Eighteen years ago, she was looking for a job, when she ran into the former tax collector, Julia Smith, at the post office and mentioned she was going to a job fair the next day. Smith suggested she come to Town Hall and check out the tax collector position.

Ward became Lyme's tax collector in December 1999.

The tax collector position requires 100 hours of classwork, and refresher courses to stay up-to-date on new laws and changes taking place, she said. Mid-May through mid-August is her busy season, as the town is one of the few that collects once a year.

Ward said she enjoyed the job. With the town's collection rate typically at around 99 percent, Ward said Lyme taxpayers are generally good at paying taxes, the town has a great Board of Finance, and everybody at Town Hall is wonderful to work with. 

Her favorite part of the job was meeting the people in person whose names she sees on the tax bills she sends out. Many of them are people she went to school with in the early years and they usually have a lot to talk about, she said. With people always on the go, the tax office is also an opportunity to meet new neighbors.

"You might get to meet them when they come in to pay their tax bills," she said.

In her retirement, Ward said she hopes to spend more time with her nine grandchildren and pursue projects she doesn't always have time to do while working.

Republican Town Committee Chairman Rowland Ballek said Ward was good at collecting taxes, was accurate, wrote good reports and ran the office smoothly.

"We were very lucky she was there," he said.

First Selectman Steven Mattson said he considers Ward as part of the "family" of long-time employees at Town Hall and views her departure as a passing of the old guard. He said it will be sad to see her gone, adding she's done a great job in a position that's very important for the town.

"She's been a steady good influence for a long, long time, and she is going to be missed," he said.

He said he is looking forward to working with Beers, who has spent about a year in training as assistant tax collector, and the Board of Selectmen plans to appoint her to the position on Monday. At the annual town budget meeting in May, residents approved changing the tax collector job from an elected position to an appointed one.

Beers, who grew up in Clinton and has lived in town for 25 years, is married and has two daughters. She volunteers at the New London Community Meal Center with the Lyme Congregational Church. She has worked as a special education aide for the Region 18 Lyme-Old Lyme School district for 15 years.

Beers said she was looking for a career change after 15 years, but didn't know what door was going to open. Ward asked her if she had ever thought of being a tax collector. Beers thought it sounded interesting and spoke to former First Selectman Ralph Eno about the possibility and went to school to learn about tax collecting. She has now completed her third tax collecting school session and will then take one more class.

"I just think it's going to be challenging and interesting, and I'm looking forward to meeting more of the townspeople that I don’t know," she said about her new position.

Ward said Beers is a quick learner and will do a super job.

"The town of Lyme is going to be in good hands," Ward said.

k.drelich@theday.com

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