Tina Merando: A Republican incumbent running unopposed as Clerk of the Town of Philipstown
Community roots and background
Fifty-seven year old Tina Merando moved to Cold Spring from Manhattanwhen she was five. “My father was from Germany. He built our home here on weekends. He was a Republican and he’d often say, ‘This is the best country in the world,’” she said in a recent interview. Merando attended Our Lady of Loretto and Haldane Schools. A lifelong Republican herself, she now lives in Nelsonville. Her husband, Bill ”Hawkeye” Merando, served as mayor of Nelsonville and was Cold Spring’s highway superintendent for 17 years. He died in 2008. “He was a great guy – always community oriented. He did a lot of good for a lot of people.” Merando has five step-children and one daughter.
She worked at Butterfield Hospital for 12 years before being hired as Philipstown’s deputy clerk in 1993. She held that position for 10 years. “Don McGrath was clerk – he was a great mentor, “she said. When McGrath retired, Merando’s husband suggested she run for the clerk’s position in the 2004 election. She still remembers her immediate reaction. “I said ‘I can’t do that!’ and he said ‘Oh yes you can!’”
Merando ran against McGrath’s daughter, Ann Gallagher, in a race that was so close it came down to the absentee ballots. “I think I won by 14 votes,” she recalled. McGrath was a Democrat but, “There was never a bad word between us,” Merando said. She seems to embrace that approach in her duties as clerk as well – working with the current town board that includes only one Republican among four Democrats. She does not see differences in party affiliation as an impediment to doing her job. “That is never an issue. No matter what party you are with, I’m supposed to be there to help. “
Back to the future?
Merando believes that the issues facing Philipstown today aren’t much different than they were years ago. “A lot of the issues are still the same. I’ve had the opportunity to look at minutes from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. I had to laugh.” The source of her amusement? Then, as now, roads were probably the biggest issue. “The thing now is that it’s hard for people because of the taxes. And …people don’t understand how government works. If I didn’t work here, I wouldn’t either. I can be empathetic.”
“I’m organized. You have to be. Record keeping is the biggest part of my job,” Merando said. Her duties as clerk also include serving as Records Management Officer and Registrar of Vital Statistics. “I also think I have good people skills. I’ve always liked working with people. I loved what I did as deputy clerk – and I love what I do now. If I can help – I’m going to do it.”
Merando points to the Town website and the bi-annual newsletter, along with improvements in tax collection, record keeping and central purchasing, as areas in which she has helped bring positive change to town hall operations. She also said that before the website and email were introduced, the office was inundated with phone calls. Calls have been greatly reduced with the use of that technology. “And one thing I’m very proud of is that we have now scanned at least 90 percent of our records. All are on the desktop and are backed up everyday at noon.”
“My job is pretty straightforward. My biggest challenge is keeping up with the laws I have to follow.” Merando said that the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) is among the more challenging laws to deal with. One recent submission under FOIL resulted in staff having to photocopy all documents in a four-foot long section of files. “It can be voluminous,” she said.
And what about the Town’s biggest challenge? “It’s really the taxes,” Merando said. “People mistakenly talk about school taxes with us but we can’t do anything about that.” Taxes that support the Haldane Central School Districtare collected by the Town of Philipstown, but are levied by the school district. “And as everyone says – it’s also the roads”
Merando was asked what advice she would give her successor, when she eventually steps down as town clerk. “Be attentive. Be patient. If you don’t have the answer – work on it and find out – to benefit the residents.”
Merando declined to do a brief video statement.