Sterling town clerk retires after 34 years

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Sterling - posted Tue., Jan. 7, 2014
(L to r) Marlene and Neil Cook, Judy Lincoln and Link Cooper stand behind retiring Town Clerk Catherine Nurmi. Photo by D. Coffey.
(L to r) Marlene and Neil Cook, Judy Lincoln and Link Cooper stand behind retiring Town Clerk Catherine Nurmi. Photo by D. Coffey.

When Catherine Nurmi began her stint as town clerk in Sterling more than 34 years ago, she was writing land indexes by hand. “The first thing I did was get a computerized system in here,” she said. “It’s been upgraded and upgraded, and now we have a records management system that is state of the art. That’s my parting gift to the town of Sterling.”

Nurmi was taking a break with fellow Town Hall employees on Jan. 2. She wore a beautiful red corsage. A small banquet of goodies lay spread out before her. Balloons and cards conveyed messages of thanks and farewell as her last hours in office ticked down. 

First Selectman Russell Gray said Nurmi started out when things were simpler. “She grew with the job. She’s been an extremely good town clerk. She’s a very knowledgeable lady,” Gray said.

Selectman Link Cooper agreed. “Cathy has had quite the responsibility,” he said.

As custodian of all the legal and property records in town, the town clerk position is crucial. The office is involved in every election and oversees every referendum. The clerk’s office keeps track of different boards and commissions and the concurrent terms of their members. The timing of elections, the days required for posting notices, and whether a referendum is an eight- or 12-hour affair – these are all issues town clerks deal with all the time.

“She’s certainly been someone you can count on to be very accurate,” Cooper said. “When she gave you a ruling on something, you didn’t have to wonder if she did her homework. That’s so important. So much hinges on things that come out of that office.”

Nurmi has been active statewide during her tenure in Sterling. She served as secretary for the Board of Directors for Connecticut Town Clerks Association for eight years. She served on different boards and commissions for the state, including the Secretary of State Commission for Election Reform, and the Historic Preservation Commission.

“You see that other towns have the same type of problems that we do, but only on a larger scale,” she said.

“I’m not going to miss the bureaucracy, or the town meetings on budgets,” she said, laughing. “They are always the low points." She will, however, miss all the people in town and all the people she’s worked with over the years. “It’s been a pleasure,” she added. “I thank the town of Sterling for the continued support over the years. It’s been rewarding and humbling.”

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