SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The South Kingstown Town Council surprised Town Clerk Dale S. Holberton at Monday’s meeting, her last after more than 30 years as clerk.
The council read into the record a resolution honoring Holberton for her service to the town, not only as clerk but in many other areas and ways.
The resolution honoring Holberton had to be kept off the agenda in order to keep the honor a surprise.
“It’s the only way we could keep her from finding out,” Council President Abel Collins said.
The council read the proclamation into the record Monday and plans to pass it at its next meeting, after it appears on the agenda.
Holberton’s planned final day on the job is Thursday. She is just the 16th clerk for South Kingstown since its 1723 founding, according to Collins.
She began her long career with the clerk’s office in September 1980. She became deputy clerk in 1985 and clerk in 1987.
Her tenure ties the record for third longest-serving clerk in South Kingstown with James Helme. They’re surpassed only by Foster Sheldon at 36 years and Howard B. Perry at 55 years.
Holberton was clerk with 17 different councils, probate clerk for six probate judges, administered 51 elections as clerk for the canvassing authority, orchestrated 19 financial town meetings and an all-day budget referendum.
She oversaw the 1989 renovation of council chambers into the current town clerk’s office space. The council chambers moved to its current second-floor room at that time. She also oversaw the 1994 renovation of the town vault. She implemented changes that introduced electronic recording of land records and computerized viewing of documents.
As liaison to the Saugatucket Veterans Memorial Park Commission, she spent hours helping to certify the names of veterans that appear on the memorial. In March 2016, she headed the engraving of additional names on the memorial, and the Hazard School war monument.
Her record includes service with the Rhode Island Town and City Clerks Association as treasurer, vice president and president. She also served on the executive board of the New England Association of City and Town Clerks.
Holberton said she plans to “chill a little bit,” enjoy retirement, spend time with her family and do some traveling.
“It’s been such an honor and I’m so gratified to have been able to serve South Kingstown as town clerk,” she said. “I couldn’t have done all those nice accomplishments if it hadn’t been for the staff that I had in the past and today. They are smart, they are loyal and they are dedicated to the residents in South Kingstown, and I owe a great deal to them.”
She also thanked the councils, probate judges and town managers, including Steve Alfred, who appointed her.
“He had a lot of confidence in me and taught me a lot of things,” she said.
Holberton shared the night’s accolades with another well-known figure in town.
The council also presented a proclamation honoring Bishop Wallace Hazard. For more than five decades, Hazard has baptized, married and buried multiple generations of South Kingstown families and residents.
Hazard was born at South County Hospital in 1942 and graduated from South Kingstown High School in 1960.
While serving as a private in the Army and stationed in Germany, Hazard was called to the ministry. The base chaplain quickly recognized his gift of preaching and gave him the pulpit many times during Sunday services.
Hazard subsequently spent 20 years reinvigorating once vibrant churches that had fallen on hard times including parishes in Ohio, West Virginia, New Jersey and Connecticut. In 1994, he and his wife Diane and their two children, Darrell and Susan, moved back to South Kingstown to lead the First Church of God on Allen Avenue.
In 2008, the bishop started a new church for the residents of South Kingstown, the Community Church of God, holding services in the VFW Post 916 on High Street. The church has grown over the years and recently began “Jr. Church” Sunday school services for children.
“He has celebrated the lives of those of multiple races, creeds, religions, and financial status,” the resolution said. “He spends his days at hospitals, rehab centers and homes of those in need of comfort.”
Hazard said the honor was a definite surprise, and that he’s not one to seek out accolades.
“I just do my work. But I’m thankful,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to be done.”
Bishop Hazard said he plans to soon start an effort to reduce the number of school students who drop out.
“I’m going to keep on keeping on,” he said.