New London court clerk retires after 36 years in "the right place"
New London — Deputy Chief Clerk Linda S. Worobey, who started her career at the Broad Street courthouse when there were no computers in the clerk's office and employees were allowed to smoke while they worked, retired at the end of December.
Her co-workers said she hadn't stopped smiling during the final few weeks of her 36-year career.
The 55-year-old Waterford resident was 18 years old when she was hired as an office clerk in 1981, earning $8,000 a year. She had just finished secretarial school when she got the job, and she told her mother she probably wouldn't last. But she applied for every opening that came along and ended up spending all of her working days in the Romanesque-style courthouse on the hill.
Worobey was promoted to data terminal operator in 1982, courtroom clerk in 1989, deputy clerk in 1991 and deputy chief clerk — the head of her office — in 1995.
Worobey today is among the highest paid employees in the New London Judicial District, earning $140,000 a year. After 36 years of service, she is entitled to the state's most generous pension plan, known as Tier I, which was closed to new enrollees at the end of 1984.
"I was in the right place at the right time," said Worobey during an interview earlier this month in her spacious office on the first floor of the courthouse known as Geographical Area 10 or "GA10."
Worobey managed 15 employees at one point, but she said computers have made fewer employees necessary and the housing and small claims dockets were moved to other courthouses. She now supervises six people.
The clerk's office is the record keeper for every criminal case file that police deliver to the courthouse and handles roughly 150 to 200 cases a day.
Clerks work with paper files and a computer information system, updating both every time there is a development in a case. In the courtroom, clerks record every transaction that takes place in front of a judge, a challenge sometimes since acoustics aren't great and parties tend to talk over one another.
"We're responsible for anything that goes on in that courtroom," she said. "And we're responsible for anything financial that goes on. We make sure people have the right forms, the right programs. Even if the prosecutors and public defenders want to know something, they come in here and ask."
Worobey remembers when she and her coworkers took calls on rotary dial phones with no voicemail and used typewriters to produce daily dockets on carbon paper. She said the Judicial Branch website and other technological advances have been a blessing for the clerk's office.
"Linda has been there so long she is an institution," said Hillary B. Strackbein, chief administrative judge for the New London Judicial District. "I don't know how GA 10 will function without her. Her management skills have kept that courthouse running for over 20 years. Hers are some big shoes to fill."
Strackbein added that "There is no aspect of GA 10 that she doesn't know or hasn't had a role in shaping. I will really miss her quick wit and her ability to help all the judges who have sat in GA 10 with whatever we have needed for all of these years."
Senior Judge Kevin P. McMahon said he worked with Worobey for 22 years.
"She took it very serious," McMahon said. "She wanted to do it right. It was very efficient, well-oiled. Linda viewed that courthouse as hers. She was a great state employee. She worked hard."
Administrative assistant Mary Carver has known Worobey since they were both teenagers and their parents took polka lessons at what was then known as New London Junior High School. Carver started working at the courthouse two weeks after Worobey, and except for the time Carver took off to raise her children, they've reported to the same office for decades.
Carver said she spends holidays with Worobey's family and will continue to see her regularly.
"I've never taken advantage of the friendship," Carver said. "In that office, it's always been, she's my boss like anyone else."
Worobey is proud of her career, but said she can't wait to get on with the rest of her life. She's married to Keith Jones, who is also retired, and has three stepchildren, six grandchildren and two more "on the way." She also has two standard poodles, a big garden to tend and a plan to enjoy some "major traveling."
"I'd like to go to Europe," she said. "I've never been. We've got passports. We're all set."
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