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Part-time job in town office leads to 28-year devotion Manchester treasurer Riley to retire by September


MANCHESTER -- When she got into the town government racket 28 years ago, Kathryn L. Riley was one of four employees serving 959 residents.

She banged out town property tax bills on a manual typewriter, mopped the floor of town hall -- actually the basement level of the town's old post office on York Street -- and even shoveled snow on stormy winter days.

"I did everything," the 60-year-old retiring clerk/treasurer said last week as she ran her family's annual weekend yard sale. "I would do the books, shovel the snow, wash the windows, do the taxes and look after the budget."

The budget then totaled $54,579.

What a difference three decades made. Since she began as a part-time Girl Friday in 1964, the town has built two sewage treatment plants, constructed miles of new roads, annexed more than 30 properties, purchased two computer systems and grown to more than 2,900 residents.

The budget -- which Mrs. Riley continued to manage until July 1 -- has increases to more than $1.1 million.

"This place has really grown over the years," she said. And she's had a part in all of the growth, at least from a spectator's point of view.

Unofficial town estimates put her attendance at town council meetings over the years at close to 100 percent.

"I think she's missed maybe two or three meetings," said County Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy, a former mayor whose second cousin is Mrs. Riley's husband. "She was just always there."

As the Westminster native looks toward her Sept. 1 retirement date, she sees a future without endless town council meetings, complicated grant applications and the laborious process of guiding the 13-year sewage treatment plant expansion toward its completion.

"They finished the first sewage treatment plant just after I started," she said. "And now it looks like they just might finish the second one this year."

While she relinquished her full-time duties as clerk/treasurer on July 1, she will continue to work Wednesdays between now and September to help her replacement through the tail end of the $11 million sewage project.

"I guess I've learned a lot about sewage over the years," she said.

Mr. Lippy -- one of five mayors Mrs. Riley has worked for -- credits her with guiding the town through the sewage plant expansion.

"I get a devilish sense of glee out of having caused so much trouble and then running away from it by taking a higher office," the commissioner said. "Without Kathryn, the sewage treatment plant wouldn't make sense to anyone."

Another person who worked closely with Mrs. Riley is former Councilman David M. Warner.

"She's always been a delightful lady," Mr. Warner said. "She's been dedicated to the town and its people, and always has had the best interests of the town at heart."

For the past two years, Mr. Warner was the town's project administrator, a sort-of manager position. His biggest job?

"The sewage treatment plant, of course," he said. "Kathryn was invaluable." Mr. Warner's job was eliminated in June, when the town hired its first full-time manager.

Born in a home along Old Manchester Road near Westminster, Mrs. Riley attended a one-room school before transferring to West End Elementary School. She graduated from Westminster High School in 1949.

Two years after high school, she married Daniel C. Riley. The newlyweds traveled around the country, following Mr. Riley's Army career to Alabama, New Mexico and Texas.

The two returned to Carroll County after, when Mr. Riley entered the banking profession and Mrs. Riley settled at home to raise the couple's two sons, Thomas, 37, and Daniel C. Jr., 34.

They have lived at their Grafton Street home since Thomas was born.

"We love Manchester," she said. "It's just such a great place, with lots of great people."

Mrs. Riley has poured endless hours into her hobbies over the years, hobbies she hopes to spend even more time pursuing now that she will be out of her corner office at town hall.

She said she wants to improve her already beautifully manicured backyard garden, do more needlework, and "do a lot of reading and relaxing."

She and her husband -- who retired recently as an assistant vice president of First National Bank of Maryland -- also hope to travel.

"We've got at least 10 families who have moved all over the place that we have to catch up with," she said.

Also on her itinerary are frequent trips to her favorite seaside retreat, Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Some of that travel will most certainly be by automobile. The couple are members of the Gettysburg Region Car Club, a group for owners of vintage cars.

And the Rileys have two cherry ones.

Mr. Riley's wheels are a 1957 Chevrolet convertible, and Mrs. Riley tools around town in a maroon 1965 Mustang convertible.

"They're beautiful cars," she said, adding that her husband restored the cars and continues to do most of the tinkering under the hood.

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