FORWARD TWP — For four decades, township secretary Mary McElhinny has greeted township residents and took care of their requests, needs and grievances.
Now, after 40 years in local government, McElhinny retired Dec. 31 after a lifetime of pursuing her interest in history and civics.
In recognition of her dedication to the township, the township supervisors proclaimed Monday as “Mary McElhinny Day in Forward Township.”
The “face of Forward Township,” McElhinny was likely the first person that any resident or visitor met when making an inquiry or doing business with the township.
Her encyclopedic knowledge of the township's history, property ownership and family lineage is legendary among township officials and citizens, according to her colleagues.
An even temperament and ever-present smile enabled her to deal with all who came through the office door, even those who haven't always been in the best frame of mind.
“I often refer to Mary as the 'grandmother' of Forward Township. She and her family are almost universally known by its residents,” said Mark Wilson, vice chairman of the supervisors.
“She is the 'face' of the township in that she has represented the township in dealing with anyone who has had business with the local government in any aspect of its responsibilities.
“You need a building permit, see Mary. You spot a lost dog, cat, cow roaming in the township, call Mary. Want to know the name of the family who owned a piece of property in the township, talk to Mary.”
McElhinny said, “I'm going to miss the people. Your job is to serve the people. There are so many great people that I would have never met (without this job).”
Although McElhinny said the township hasn't changed much in population over the years, there's a new influx of people complimenting the longtime families.
And there are several new 100-plus home developments, by far the largest in her tenure at the township.
McElhinny first ran and was elected as township auditor in 1973. She eventually became a clerk in the township office.
In the early 1980s, she was hired as the township secretary and has remained there. For many years, she also was the treasurer for the supervisors.
Wilson has known McElhinny for almost all of the 16 years that he's been a resident.
When Wilson was elected supervisor and took office in 2010, it was McElhinny who briefed him as to the day-to-day operation of the township.
Wilson said, “I believe that each of the current supervisors and those who served in the past 40 years would echo my sentiments in regard to Mary's value to their efforts.”
In her retirement, McElhinny said she will tackle a number of home projects.
“The officials here have been great. They've put up with me,” joked McElhinny. “I enjoyed all the people. It's been a pleasure. And I'm probably going to miss it.”