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Barbara Riepe Marks 40th Year of Employment
With Township at Surprise Celebration

Specially Written for The Times

Scotch Plains Township Clerk Barbara Riepe marked a milestone last week with the 40th anniversary of her employment with the township.

"I’ve never known anyone, except (the former township clerk) who worked in the same organization for 40 years," said Township Manager Thomas E. Atkins, as the township surprised Mrs. Riepe during a televised Township Council meeting last week with an anniversary ceremony.

Invited to the meeting -- all unbeknownst to Mrs. Riepe -- were family and friends as well as former Mayor Gabe Spera, her former boss and Township Clerk, Helen Reidy, Chief of Police Thomas O’Brien and other municipal co-workers.

"I really am surprised. I’m numb," Mrs. Riepe declared, after the Township Council momentarily suspended the regular agenda and a version of "This is Your Life" began for the dedicated Township Clerk.

Mrs. Riepe said she started work in the Clerkıs office in 1957 when she was 19 years old.

"I always wanted to be a secretary," she said.

"Eisenhower was President of the United States and Richard Nixon was Vice President then," Mr. Atkins pointed out.

Mrs. Riepe moved to the township from the neighboring town of Westfield when she was 12.

In 1987, after 30 years as Deputy Township Clerk, Mrs. Riepe was given the chance to move up following the retirement of her predecessor, Mrs. Reidy. Mrs. Reidy retired after 40 years of employment with the township.

"I didn’t really want her to retire," Mrs. Riepe said.

Mrs. Riepe won the promotion to Clerk and said she remembers Mr. Spera saying at the time that anyone who stayed with a job that long as Deputy deserves a chance as Clerk.

"And you’ve done very well," Mr. Spera observed during the ceremony.

Councilwoman and Deputy Mayor Joan Papen said, "We hope you’re going to be here longer."

"I hope so too," replied Mrs. Riepe.

What does the Clerk do?

"I do marriage licenses and animal licenses. I’m the registrar of vital statistics (births and deaths), the elections and minutes for (council) meetings," Mrs. Riepe said. "I’m never bored."

Mrs. Riepe said she attends conferences with a group of Union County Clerks and Registrars in order "to be brought up to date" on changing laws that affect her duties. What was her worst moment on the job?

"Really, I think it was just a couple of years ago on election night. The library (one of the polling sites) was locked up and (the results) were still inside."

Mrs. Riepe said she certainly appreciates how computers have streamlined some of the Clerk’s duties, after the office began using them about 10 years ago. She also keeps an office bulletin board full of customers’ photos -- pets, newborn babies and newlyweds, just to name a few. Halloween is her favorite holiday, she said, as she waits in costume for trick-or-treaters at the office before she leaves for the day.

Mayor Irene T. Schmidt thanked Mrs. Riepe during the ceremony for her commitment to the township by stating, "We’re very fortunate to have the kind of people we have here."

Township administrators gave Mrs. Riepe flowers and an engraved crystal bowl noting her 40 years with the Clerk’s office before serving up a large congratulatory cake.

Mrs. Riepe did admit that when she was first hired, she thought, "I won’t be here that long." However, she said, "I’ve enjoyed working for the township all these years. It’s been very interesting and I’ve worked with some very nice people."

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