BREWER – Longtime City Clerk Archie Verow was at home one day, shingling his roof, when suddenly his ladder started wiggling.
It happened long ago, back when it was the practice for Maine’s city and town clerks to take home hunting and fishing licenses just in case someone needed one over a weekend.
When Verow checked the bottom of his ladder, he found a customer waiting.
“A guy showed up and asked, ‘Do you have a fishing license?’”
Arthur “Archie” Verow is retiring as city clerk after presiding for 40 years over Brewer’s paper trail, from voter registration lists to dog licenses.
He has always been the man with an answer – sometimes even for people checking their ages.
He said in an interview last week that some people who stop by the clerk’s office to get birth certificates discover “they’re a year older than they thought,” he said. “They say, ‘That ain’t right.’”
“There certainly have been a lot of humorous moments,” he said.
His first day was Jan. 23, 1967.
He walked into the office, which was piled high with stacks of paper, knowing only that it issued fishing, hunting and dog licenses and was in charge of elections.
Verow was 24 at the time, and never did he think he would still be working for Brewer four decades later.
April Fool’s Day will be his last as a city employee. “I thought I’d be here for 20 years.”
Verow has presided over 102 elections and countless City Council meetings.
Changing how elections are conducted in the city is his biggest accomplishment, he said.
“I remember standing in long lines at Pendleton Street School waiting to vote,” Verow said. “One thing I aspired to do, after taking office, was to make voting more convenient for the citizens.”
When he started, there were five polling places in the city and nowadays everyone votes at Brewer Auditorium.
“It wasn’t easy,” he said. “People don’t like change.”
But, Verow said, “I just like helping people.”
Years ago, while he was making the rounds to area retirement homes to collect absentee ballots from seniors, he arrived at one of the nursing homes and found a former schoolteacher waiting for him.
“Where have you been?” she asked. “I’ve been waiting for 10 minutes and I have things to do,” Verow recalled her saying. “She was 102 years old.”
Most of the memories that bring a smile to his face are centered on the actions of residents.
One year, when there was a long list of referendum questions, one voter took a short breather, Verow said.
“He finished half of the ballot and went outside to have a smoke break,” he said.
One memory that makes him proud stems from when construction was being done at the Brewer Auditorium, so it was unavailable as a polling place.
The city had set up a huge white tent in the parking lot for voters.
“It was kind of a fun thing,” Verow said, recalling that workers bundled up against the cold and drank a lot of hot coffee. “Everybody kind of stepped up to the plate … and it came out pretty well.”
After retiring, Verow, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000, said he will spend time enjoying his grandchildren, doing community service and continuing his long interest in writing.
He said he has not ruled out running for political office.
Verow was born in Old Town, went to John Bapst High School, and graduated from Husson College with a business administration degree in 1966.
Before taking the Brewer city clerk job, he worked as an accounting clerk at Webber Oil, in the business office at the Bangor Daily News and, like many Brewer residents, at the Eastern Fine Paper Co. mill.
The city has changed considerably since Verow took the position.
“Wilson Street wasn’t developed” in 1967, he said. “The end of the road out there was the [now closed] drive-in theater.
“It seems odd to me the population [some 9,000] hasn’t changed; [the city] seems a lot bigger,” Verow said.
While each day on the job has been different, they all end the same – with a question posed by Frances, his wife of 43 years.
“At the end of the day we say, ‘What made you laugh today?’” Verow said. “It’s a good way to wrap up the day.”