Rhinebeck’s new town clerk settles in

Rhinebeck’s search for a town clerk has come to an end: Jon Gautier had his first day on the job Oct. 10.

“It’s an honor to have the opportunity to serve the people of Rhinebeck,” Gautier told town board members at their Oct. 9 meeting. “I’ve lived here for eight years. I love it. I have a son in eighth grade here.”

Gautier comes to the position after working as deputy clerk for the Dutchess County Legislature for the last two years. “There is some overlap with the job duties of that job and this one,” said Gautier. “But there’s a retail government aspect of this one that I didn’t have there,” like providing people with birth, marriage and death certificates.

“It makes me feel good to help the public,” he added.

Gautier is an attorney and managing partner at Mansfield, Gautier & Rosenthal, LLP, of Rhinebeck and Red Hook. He graduated first in his class from New York Law School and has been a staff attorney at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and an adjunct professor of legal writing at Fordham University Law School.

Previous Town Clerk Barbara Cunningham retired from the position Aug. 24 after 22 years of service. The Town Board had been searching for a new clerk since before that date. As of their Aug. 15 deadline for applications, the board had received 100, and called in 18 people for a first round of interviews. They then asked seven or eight to return for a second round, according to Council Member Elizabeth Spinzia, and finally voted unanimously to appoint Gautier.

Jon Gautier
At a public hearing in late July, three town residents spoke in favor of maintaining a requirement of Rhinebeck residency for the position, but the board voted 3-2 to open it to residents of adjoining counties as well.

“We had a substantial amount of applicants with some incredible backgrounds, experience and qualifications, beyond what we’d asked for,” said Town Supervisor Tom Traudt, “so it’s been a difficult process. We were seeking people with a diversity of skills and backgrounds, who would modernize town hall operations…[and] move our town government to be productive in providing a positive service to our community. We wanted to bring Town Hall to a fast-forward movement for record keeping and for access for information for the public. Jon Gautier has extensive experience in that and a great background. He brings to the table some great education and professional skills.”

Both Traudt and Gautier lauded the efforts of Deputy Clerk Joan Winne, who has been filling in since Cunningham’s retirement. “We’ve been short-staffed since Barb left,” said Traudt. “Joan has done an incredibly professional job and it’s a difficult time for the transition, in the middle of budget season.”

“Joan’s been unbelievable,” Gautier added.

Besides handling birth, marriage and death records for the town, the Town Clerk issues hunting and fishing licenses and burn permits, assists with genealogy searches, distributes town board meeting agendas and minutes, schedules town hall usage, supervises the deputy clerk and collects taxes.

“It’s going great,” Gautier said of the job so far. “I’m a bureaucrat at heart, and I love paperwork.”

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