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Leaving a Legacy: Leslie Cotton Retiring After 20 Years as Town Clerk

The longtime Southington resident, who first took her oath of office in 1993, will retire on Tuesday after 20 consecutive years as town clerk for the town of Southington.

Leslie Cotton retires Tuesday after 20 years as Southington Town Clerk. (Credit: Jason Vallee)
Leslie Cotton retires Tuesday after 20 years as Southington Town Clerk. (Credit: Jason Vallee)
When Leslie Cotton first took office as town clerk in January 1994, things were a lot different. Southington was only exploring the idea of a comprehensive website – something not yet popular with Connecticut towns – and all records were collected and stored in manual, computer-free archives.

Fast forward 20 years and the Southington Town Clerk’s office and operations look a lot different, the town now in the digital age and set up for the future. Much of this change, Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback said, is due to the dedication, hard-work and customer-first thinking that marked Cotton’s time as an employee.

“Leslie has always taken ideas and run with them,” he said. “She was always looking for ways in improve services and make it easier for residents. I would have loved to have her around a bit longer.”

Cotton will retire on Tuesday, handing the reins to Kathy Larkin after 20 consecutive years in office – and the Southington resident said she is looking forward to enjoying her new found free time and some of the advantages that come with it.

It’s been a fun and challenging two decades, Cotton said, but after decades of service to the town – she was an employee with the Registrar of Voters before taking on the role as town clerk – she said it was time to step down.

“If I could do this part time, it’s something I would love to keep doing, but the town deserves more than that,” she said. “When I look back at what I’ve done, I think now was the right time to step down.”

Over the years, Cotton has spearheaded a wide variety of project designed to bring Southington into the digital age, to improve services for residents and to encourage residents to take full advantage of all the opportunities available to them.

There was just one computer in the office when Cotton first became clerk and it was hardly useful, lacking even a word processor system. The department was still using a cash registry with hand written receipts.

Since that time, she has helped build the website, remodel the website, implemented the “Southington Top Dog” program to increase dog licensing, worked to provide residents access to local government through cable television, digitized all of the towns records, received grants to expand and better organize archives and much more.

But if you ask Cotton what she was most proud of, she can sum it up in three words: quality customer service.

“The most important thing to me was always offering the public quality, excellent customer service,” Cotton said. “I wanted people to know that if they came in, they would be welcomed in a friendly way, with a smile, and if we couldn’t answer their question, we wanted to be able to direct them to the person who could.”

Larkin said following her election in November that she “will have some really big shoes to fill,” saying she’s always been impressed wit the organization and ambition Cotton showed, even as she focused on updating ordinances and creating a new website and app for the town after announcing her decision not to seek reelection.

“She has set the bar high and we just hope to carry on the legacy she’s instilled,” Larkin said.

Cotton, however, said she is confident that Larkin, a longtime employee of the Southington Town Clerk’s office, will do just fine adjusting to the new role and helping to continually improve services for town residents.

“Knowing the qualifications that Kathy has, I know she’s ready,” she said. “That was a factor in my decision, knowing the town will be left in good hands.”

With some newfound free time, Cotton said she is looking forward to enjoying a combination of relaxing at home with her husband, Bruce, and traveling a little when the mood strikes.

“If I wake up on a beautiful day and we decide we want to go to the Cape, I want to have the opportunity to do that,” she said.

Leslie, you’ve earned that.

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Stage Crafter January 07, 2014 at 04:48 PM
Yes, Ms. Cotton did bring the Town Clerk's office into the new century, making it efficient and customer-friendly for Southington residents. I have always been treated well there by Ms. Cotton and her well-trained staff. But if you're going to tell the entire story of her 20 years as Town Clerk, you cannot omit the incident that led to her unfortunate arrest due to an error in judgement: http://articles.courant.com/2010-11-29/community/hc-southington-clerk-arrest-1130-20101129_1_marriage-license-dennis-stanek-probate-court

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