Constancy in a changing world

Tenure: With 50 years on the job, Mount Airy Town Clerk Betty Ifert is the longest continuously employed municipal employee in Maryland.

July 02, 2000|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

In the last 50 years, life in Mount Airy has changed considerably.

The population has grown from 750 to more than 6,000. Housing developments, schools and shopping centers have been built. The town's boundaries have expanded.

But one thing has remained constant: Betty Ifert, town clerk.

Ifert, 71, started as Town Hall's first employee in 1950, when the hall was in a small room behind Etchison's Barber Shop on Main Street. Today, Ifert holds the record as the longest continuously employed municipal employee in Maryland, according to a 1997 survey by the Maryland Municipal League.

At an open house Friday, more than 50 friends and Mount Airy residents gathered to offer Ifert congratulations on her achievement. "I think everybody in Mount Airy knows Betty," said resident Travis Norwood.

"She just makes the town office more personable," said Harold Delauter, a retired Mount Airy resident trooper.

"She's forever doing things for people who are under the weather," said Mayor Gerald Johnson. "She's doing anything that needs to be done, just because she cares."

Ifert remained a stable presence at Town Hall, even as elected officials cycled through the revolving door.

Johnson, for example, is one of 10 mayors Ifert has worked with during her tenure.

As the town evolved, so did Ifert's job description. At first, she did a little of everything, including typing water and tax bills. She worked nights when a water main broke. She cleaned the office when necessary. She even called out the snow plows when it snowed.

"And back then, you fixed coffee and sandwiches and took them out to the workers, too." Ifert said.

Today, Ifert works part-time, overseeing the town's investments. But meeting people's needs is what Ifert likes to do best.

"I like to be the problem-solver," she said.

Her attitude about her job has translated into countless extra hours of work.

"Her dedication to the old-fashioned `do it right, or don't do it at all,' mentality really shines through," said Frank Johnson, a Town Council member.

Ifert is an asset to the community. "It's so interesting to speak to her because she just knows and knows," said Sheila Pyatt, Ifert's neighbor for 18 years. "It's people like that, when they're no longer here, you're going to lose the history."

Councilman Johnson agrees.

"You learn from your mistakes, but you can only learn if you remember," Johnson said.

Ifert doesn't plan to retire anytime soon, and the town wants her to stay.

Although she's been in place for 50 years, "she could be here for 50 more," said Heather Teach, a Town Hall employee.

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