By John Burton
LITTLE SILVER – Helen Gormley is leaving her co-workers and her job but not the borough.
“This is my town,” said Gormley, the borough administrator/municipal clerk who will be retiring Aug. 2.
Gormley, a borough employee since February 1987, has lived on Salem Lane for 38 years. “Right now we’re going to stay in Little Silver.”
When she started with the borough, Gormley was hired as an administrative assistant and recycling coordinator. In January 1991 she was named as deputy borough clerk. She earned her certification as registered municipal clerk in June 1996 and was appointed deputy administrator in October 2002. Gormley assumed the responsibilities as clerk and administrator in January 2011, officially receiving the titles a year later.
Gormley never saw herself taking on the responsibility of these positions and all they entail. “I never thought I would work as long as I did,” she said.
She thought the job would be good for her as her two children, Pamela and John, attended borough schools.
It was the quality education that led to the family moving to Little Silver nearly four decades ago, she said.
Over the years as a resident and employee, she has seen the community grow and continue as a wonderful place to raise a family – in no small part due to the public education and borough services, she said.
As her responsibilities grew and roots in the borough deepened, Gormley came to appreciate her role in helping borough residents tackle issues and navigate the layers of government.
“It can be challenging at times,” she said, acknowledging the need to put in long hours and late nights attending borough meetings while continuing to update her certification for the clerk’s position, which is required by the state. (In comparison, the administrator job is technically a political appointment, with that person serving at the pleasure of the mayor and council.)
“It is a tremendous responsibility,” she said. “You try to make everybody happy but you can’t.”
What has helped, she believed, is being a resident, sharing the concerns, frustrations and pain that other residents can feel – even in a small suburban community.
Her intimate knowledge of what was happening to residents became even more apparent in the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy. She knew how the storm impacted the community with homes damaged so significantly that some residents still are unable to return to them.
She has seen houses being repaired and raised and knows how school was disrupted and power was out for lengthy periods. She felt the impact of the storm on both a personal and professional level.
“I think I cared more because I live here and it is my tax dollars, too,” she said.
She has helped borough professionals and elected officials make difficult tasks easier, she believes, and says they have always been decent, caring people – especially the mayors with whom she has worked.
That holds true with the current holder of that office, Robert Neff Jr. “I give him a world of credit,” she said.
Now she is working with the newly hired clerk/administrator, Kimberly Jungfer, who comes to Little Silver from Oceanport where she was administrator. “She knows the job inside and out,” Gormley said. “Little Silver is in good hands.”
Along with that, she is saying her goodbyes to coworkers, many of whom she has worked with for quite a few years, and volunteers who have lent so much support for various committees and boards. That process has been difficult, she said. “You’re happy to say goodbye and move on but you’re sad to say goodbye.”
She has no immediate plans yet for her post-work life, except maybe travel a little and see where things take her. She expects to be around town and will be available to offer a little advice to friends and neighbors on the ins and outs of local government.