For about eight years, Amy Warner has been a fixture at the Alna Town Office. She has applied her customer service skills to the position of tax collector and town clerk to make the experience of registering a vehicle or paying taxes as pleasant as possible, she said.
Following Alna’s annual town meeting March 19, Warner will no longer be the voice on the phone or the face behind the counter for those contacting town hall. The Alna Board of Selectmen plans to appoint Deputy Town Clerk Lisa Arsenault to the position Warner vacates March 19.
No longer beholden to office hours, Warner plans to devote more of her time and attention to her true passion, farming. Already, Warner’s accounting and record-keeping abilities have benefited not only the Old Narrow Gauge Farm, which she runs with her fiancé Toby Stockford, but also the broader agricultural community.
Warner said she plans to remain involved in Alna’s municipal government. She is the only candidate for the position of treasurer and will continue as the recording secretary for the Alna Planning Board. Running for treasurer was “a no-brainer,” Warner said. “It allows me to still be involved.”
Warner’s career at the town office grew out of a simple visit in 2008. A graduate from the University of Southern Maine with a degree in accounting and business administration and experience with office administration, Warner asked if then-Town Clerk Karen Smith needed help.
In May 2008, Warner was appointed deputy town clerk. The experience was “a little scary at first,” Warner said. “There was a lot I didn’t have experience with.” Warner quickly caught on and the following year was appointed town clerk.
“She’s been a pleasure to work with and I’m going to miss her,” First Selectman David Abbott said. “She does so much more than the job description. She’s on top of everything.”
As tax collector and town clerk, Warner has fulfilled the standard functions of the position, such as issuing registrations and licenses, collecting taxes, registering voters, and overseeing elections, among other duties.
In a town of approximately 700 people, however, the town clerk often takes on far more responsibility. Warner has also served as the recording secretary for selectmen and is often tasked with communicating with people on selectmen’s behalf, or following up on issues discussed during meetings.
When Warner started work, the position of tax collector and town clerk was a 35-hour-a-week job. Due to Warner’s efforts to create greater efficiencies at the town office and increase online access for residents, the hours for town clerk and tax collector have been reduced to 20.
Warner’s initiative to reduce her own hours and pay may seem strange, she said, “but I pay taxes too. I don’t want to pay more than I have to either.” With little control over the school budget and no control over the county tax, the municipal budget is one of the only areas where cuts can be made to reduce property taxes, Warner said.
Through Warner’s initiative, the hours of the town office also changed. While reduced, the hours were adjusted to make trips to the town office more accessible for working people, Warner said.
Alna has school choice, and Warner created a process to verify the residency of students. The process was later adopted district-wide and resulted in a decrease in RSU 12 administrative costs in the 2015-2016 school budget.
“She definitely took on more work than she needed to,” Abbott said. In addition to her work for Alna, Warner has supported herself and her ambitions as a farmer through waitressing, a job that pays more than her work as a municipal official, Warner said. Warner, however, has remained in her position out of a sense of civic duty and civic pride, she said.
“I love Alna,” Warner said. “Alna is a great community. It is an eclectic mix of folks who are passionate about their town and plugged in and involved.”
Warner has weathered her fair share of controversies in town and has tried to maintain her neutrality, no matter how heated the debate. “We are definitely a community of individuals,” she said.
Alna’s connection to its history is one of many things Warner loves about the town. Warner will remain chair of the Committee for Alna History after she leaves the town clerk position, she said.
Warner has been able to apply her financial background to help support the launch of the Old Narrow Gauge Farm. In operation for more than two years, the farm sells organic pork and eggs and Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs.
The jams, jellies, and pickled items Warner produces, many from foraged items, are her true passion. The farm recently received a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan to support its expansion after a labor-intensive application process Warner was able to navigate due to her background.
Through the loan, the Old Narrow Gauge Farm will be able to build a commercial kitchen, which will increase the production of Warner’s jams, jellies, and pickled items. Warner hopes to sell the products wholesale in the near future. The items are currently available at the Morris Farm, The Alna Store, and area farmers markets.
“I’m so happy to have a skill set that I can apply to something I love,” she said. “I have the financial background to make it work.”
Warner is sharing her skill set with other small farms. She recently gave a presentation on record keeping to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association Journeyperson Program, which supports new farmers.
She also hopes to create a central source of available resources and supports for small farms to help ensure their success.
The March 19 town meeting will be the last day Warner serves as Alna’s town clerk and tax collector. She will, however, remain part of the fabric of the community.
“I hope I left the town office in a better place than when I found it,” Warner said. “I hope the town keeps moving forward and that Alna spirit keeps going.”
For more information on the Old Narrow Gauge Farm, go to http://oldnarrowgaugefarm.com or call 350-1650.