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Dollars, cents and community relations

POULSBO – For Poulsbo’s Colleen Smith, it’s all about the money. City money that is. After 25 years of holding the title as the city’s first utility billing clerk, Smith is not ready to let it go. Now, 57 years old, the Accounts Receivable Technician can’t walk away from the residents and merchants she has grown attached to or the job of managing their utility money.

“If you owe the city money, she knows who you are and where to find you,” said Finance director Nanci Lien.

Although given the opportunity to retire, Smith declined, much to the excitement of coworkers and utility account holders.

“The people keep me coming back. I love the social part of the job. I am not just sitting and entering numbers into a machine,” Smith said.

Lien is enthused with Smith’s decision and said her humor, style and creativity have really been a wonderful addition and made it a fun place to work.

“She has great customer service skills and great sense of style,” said Lien. “The best Nordstrom shopper. She’s a walking L.L. Bean!”

To put her tenure into perspective, Smith came in for her first interview with the city cradling her 1-year-old daughter Erin. Now, a quarter-century later, Smith has raised both Erin, 26, a Licensed Practitioner Nurse and her older brother Charley, 32, who works as an attorney.

Not many people can say they have lived in the same city for that amount of time, much less worked at the same job. There are only three others that have been on the city’s payroll for the last 25 years; Police Chief Jeff Doran, his secretary Marycarol Howerton and Police Officer Rodger Brubaker.

Since the late 1970s, there have been many changes to the city and the ones Smith has had to become the most accustomed to were technological advances in the workplace.

Around City Hall, coworkers joke about it, but there is one machine in particular Smith refuses to give up. “It’s an IBM Selectric, used in the early 1970s and leaving a trail of dust from the production line. No other machine works any better for printing billing applications,” defended Smith.

Although she gets a hard time about keeping it, she apparently is not the only one using it. There are others in City Hall who rely on the coveted machine.

“They sneak down here to use it when they think they won’t be caught,” said Smith laughing.

Aside from being a mother and working for the city, Smith has also been an influence in the community, organizing events and special activities to benefit programs such as D.A.R.E., not to mention Poulsbo’s Centennial Ball and “Rock and Roll at Raab Park.”

When Smith does retire, she said she’d like to travel to County Cork in Ireland to research the history of her McCormack family bloodline. Smith said she would also like to continue to volunteer with programs that are beneficial to society, such as ALIVE, which supports and shelters abused women.

Tomorrow, April 17, will mark her 25 years with city.

Although Smith may not be retiring any time soon, she said she is making more time for some swing dancing lessons, East Coast style.

“There were times when I would look forward to when I would retire,” said Smith. “But now that it’s herem I have a whole different attitude and perspective. I really like the people and I keep coming back.”

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