Patty Strauss: Westport’s Vital Town Clerk Retires

Patty Strauss loved her career in banking. But in 1997 Westport Bank & Trust — her longtime employer — was in the midst of a dizzying succession of mergers. The “hometown bank in a town of homes” felt less and less like home.

So when she saw heard that Westport Town Clerk Joan Hyde was retiring, Patty called Diane Goss Farrell.

The newly elected 1st Selectwoman phoned right back. “Am I overdrawn?” she worried.

“No!” Strauss replied. “I’m just letting you know: I want to apply for town clerk.”

“Then who’ll take care of my account?” Farrell asked.

Strauss got the job. Farrell got a new banker.

Patty Strauss, in her Town Clerk’s office.

At the end of December – 23 years later — Patty Strauss retires. She’s overseen many changes. Technology has modernized many tasks. But at its core, she says, the town clerk is still in the business of customer service.

Connecticut law mentions several hundred town clerk duties. Strauss breaks them into 4 main categories:

  • Recorder of land records. This includes all property transfers, liens, mortgages and releases, from Westport’s incorporation in 1835 to the present.
  • Recorder of vital records: births, deaths, marriages, etc.
  • Overseer of elections (federal, state and local). This covers petitions, nominations, financial filings and more.
  • RTM clerk: secretary of the town’s legislative body.

“I have dozens of bosses,” Strauss notes. “Jim Marpe, the Connecticut Secretary of the State, the Department of Public Health, and 36 RTM members.

“I’m not the decision maker. I just make sure the paperwork is done correctly.”

Which is like saying Alex Trebek was just a guy who asked questions on TV.

Patty Strauss (center) with state legislators Gail Lavielle and Jonathan Steinberg. She spent plenty of time in Hartford as legislative chair for the Connecticut Town Clerks Association (2008-11) and president (2015-17).

Strauss just completed her last big project: her 6th presidential election. Her Westport tenure was bookended by the 2 that have drawn the most attention for the voting process: 2000 (hanging chads) and 2020 (mail-in ballots).

Thankfully, there has never been a whiff of controversy over any Westport (or Connecticut) votes.

To the surprise of many — from real estate regulars who relied on her for much of their work, to residents with random but gotta-have-an-answer queries — Strauss is not a native Westporter.

Raised in Maryland, with a degree in education from Radford College, she moved here after marriage. Her husband Ed’s family were longtime owners of the Depot Liquor Store.

Strauss opened WB&T’s Georgetown office. She worked in the Saugatuck and Greens Farms branches too, before moving to downtown headquarters (now Patagonia).

That’s how she knew so many Westporters — and all about mortgages and land record searches too. The transition to Town Hall was easy.

Patty Strauss, at one of her many Memorial Day parades.

Farrell valued Strauss’ customer services skills. “People need to be treated well,” the 1st selectwoman told the new town clerk.

That’s still the case. Some of the hometown hominess is gone — a cheerful operator no longer personally transfers each call to the appropriate department, and patrons can get answers to many questions from the town website, not an actual human being — but for many Strauss is still the face of Westport government.

Patty and her husband Ed love the water.

During her tenure, records have become more accessible. She once spent most of her days in an enormous vault. Paperwork from 1835 on — births, land records, maps, elections, RTM minutes, burial permits — is still there.

But gone are the days when people had to make appointments to walk in and search (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. only, please!). Now 17 different collections are online.

Strauss does it all with a fulltime staff of 4, and 1 part-time assistant. She hires extra help during busy seasons, like elections and springtime (dog licenses).

The staff follows Strauss’ philosophy of treating everyone promptly, with courtesy, and alike — no favors to the famous. However, she says, after years of friendly banter with Paul Newman, one day they asked for a photo with him. He put his arms around the women.

It’s still there, on the wall.

Paul Newman and the Town Clerk office staff, after picking up his 2006 absentee ballot.

When COVID hit last March, Town Hall closed. But, Strauss notes, “you can’t swear someone in, issue a marriage license or notarize a signature on Zoom.”

The Town Clerk’s office relocated to a picnic table behind the building. Bird droppings from a nearby maple tree intruded, so now there’s a tent. Town Hall will reopen soon, but Strauss and her staff never stopped seeing people face to face. That goes with the gig.

The gig ends soon for Patty Strauss. She and her husband are moving to Wilmington, North Carolina.

Like every other property transaction, the  closing will be recorded in the town clerk’s office. It’s a routine — yet vital — task.

For 23 years Patty Strauss handled that job, and so many others. Countless Westporters have been helped by her organizational skills, attention to detail, and knowledge of (and love for) our town.

In-deed!

33 responses to “Patty Strauss: Westport’s Vital Town Clerk Retires

  1. Patty is wonderful and will be missed!

  2. Laura Bulakites Barton

    Congratulations Patty!!!!!! Enjoy your retirement. I miss you and Ed.

  3. Orofino Thomas A

    Patty and her husband will be missed by all! She and husband are true Westporter’s. I remember moving to Westport 40 years ago trying to find my way around went to Ed’s father’s liquor store with my the 2 year old and Ed, his dad (an avid baseball guy) and Patty were minding the store and made me feel 1,000% welcomed to town. They will be missed but Wilmington will be graced by their arrival

  4. Patty & Ed……Good luck & good health in your retirement !
    The office of Town Clerk was so well managed by Patty and her team. Some may not appreciate what a critical function the Town Clerks office is to the citizens and business of Westport…you made it look easy.
    We will miss you.

  5. Patty is a Westport treasure beyond belief !!!!. She truly epitomizes the character of “Native Westporter.”

  6. Kristin Schneeman

    Patty is a jewel and will be so missed. Like so many, I interacted with her when we first moved to town and had a random question about our new property. She took me in the vault (which is very impressive!) to dig up the answer and spent far more time than I had any right to expect – she was as interested in the answer as I was! Now as a member of the RTM I’ve been the beneficiary of her professionalism and team spirit in a different way. Things sure won’t be the same without her!

  7. Congratulations and best wishes for your next chapter, Patty!
    Thanks for all you did for the town and for the people of Westport.
    A special thanks from all of us at Assumption (and Fr Tom!) for all your sage advice and guidance. Wishing you blessings and safe travels!

  8. Patty is simply the best and will be sorely missed. Whoever replaces her will have very big shoes to fill.

  9. Patty will be missed. She is kind, patient and so great at her job. Always a pleasure to see her. Our “go to” person for the LWV and always had the answers! Good luck and happiness on your next journey.
    All Best!
    Pat

  10. Gerald F. Romano, Jr.

    Patty thank you for all your help over the years
    I’ll miss taking your picture in the Memorial Day Parades
    Enjoy your retirement / you earned it
    Best,
    Gerald F. Romano, Jr.

  11. Patty and Ed will be missed! They each brought care and expertise to the lucky town of Westport. Thank you for all you’ve done for us.

  12. Thank you, Patty, for all your many kindnesses and the incredible job you did for the town and people of Westport. You are a treasure! Wishing you and Ed all the best in your retirement in NC. You’ve richly deserved it!

  13. Thank you, Dan, for this well-deserved tribute. Patty is an incredible asset to Town Hall, the RTM, and the Town of Westport. She has made the hard work look easy and the roughest times appear to go smoothly. She is cherished and appreciated beyond measure and will be sorely missed.

  14. Loretta Hallock

    Patty, Good luck and happy retirement.it was a pleasure working with you.
    Enjoy your retirement.

  15. We love you Patty (and Ed) and will miss you guys so much!

  16. Patty is irreplaceable. She is a treasure! Thank you Patty for all your kindness and service over the years to me personally and to all of the people of Westport. Enjoy your well earned retirement at peace in the knowledge that you made such a difference to so many! God Bless!

  17. Luisa Francoeur

    Thank you for all your years of dedication. Best wishes for a happy retirement!

  18. Arline Gertzoff

    Good luck to you and Ed in your retirement A pleasure to work with you .

  19. Patty, I can’t thank you enough for all you have done through my 10 years on the RTM. You and your staff always made our jobs easier. Most importantly thank you for being all about “WESTPORT.” Didn’t matter the event, you and Ed were always there, always helping, always giving. I wish both you and Ed nothing but the best. Once 10:30 Mass comes back, I will throw a “peace sign” your way! 🙂

  20. Thank you so much, Patty, for all that you’ve given of your knowledge and yourself. i will always remember your competence and kindness, the hospitality of your office — your and the staff’s constant readiness to help — your abundant warmth and shining spirit. You were there for every Westporter who needed you, and for the town as a whole. Thank you for being such a generous soul!

    People and their dogs — always welcome!

    Dan has written you a lovely tribute. You have earned and deserve it.

    Adam and I wish you and Ed many happy, healthy years ahead, and the best to you and all your family!

    With Warm Regards,

    Judy

  21. Patty – It is with great sadness that you are retiring but certainly well deserved. From your days at WB&T to all the fabulous things you’d done at the Town Clerk’s Office, you have excelled to the benefit of everybody in Westport.
    Jane and I send our best wishes.
    Mark Rubenstein

  22. NICE WORK PATTY. .
    ENJOY RETIREMENT. DO I REMEMBER CORRECTLY THAT YOU SUCCEEDED JOAN MONTANERO (?)
    HYDE. CHEERS. CARYL

  23. Patty– Thank you for everything you have done for our town. You are a beloved pillar in our community. Your kindness, fairness and competence are so appreciated by all of us.
    Have a wonderful retirement!
    We will miss your beautiful smile in Town Hall!
    ~~Kristan Hamlin, RTM #4

  24. We were so lucky to have a Town Clerk of this caliber serving the Town of Westport, serving the people who often walked through her door,..and giving an individual like me… a good feeling about my Town and a very good feeling about Patty Strauss and her staff. Thank you and good fortune in your new home state.

  25. Wendy Goldwyn Batteau

    Oh, Patty! You will be so missed – I cannot imagine the town working smoothly without you (but no guilt!) We will be fine, of course, but your knowledge, expertise, kindness, eagerness to help, and great cheer will be much missed. All best to you and your family with many happy adventures to come.

  26. Andrew Colabella

    Patty (Party) Strauss, so happy, positive and cheerful, bright with life and intelligence, vocal with stimulating intellectual conversation, joke, and great Westport story, I’ll miss you.

    Westport is supported by the columns that are of our residents, amenities, find dining/recreation, history, traditions, sports, and great civic duties carried out by elected and appointed officials. The glue, you, is what makes this all so transparent, clear, and pleasant.

    Enjoy Wilmington. Hope to see your Redskins win. And Ed driving another badass Blue Bronco with Stella and Greg riding shotgun.

    Here’s to your new peace and home. Party on Party Strauss 🇺🇸🤘🏻

  27. We’ll miss you, Patty (and Ed, too)! How lucky Westport was to have had a Town Clerk of your caliber.

  28. Patty, you’re the best. I’ve loved working with you over the past 12 years. Thank you for everything and best wishes on the next chapter of your life.

  29. The Bank, the Bar, the Basement…didn’t matter…Patty was all smiles. Beautiful lady XOX

  30. Patty and Ed — wishing you both all the best in retirement! We go back all the way to Railroad Place, when I owned Madison’s. You were my first banker while Ed supplied the wine and encouragement for my new store. And, the smiles from everyone on that street when you became engaged! Just magical! I know you’ll both continue working your magic.

  31. I have known the Strauss family for a very long time. My father photographed Ed and Patty’s wedding many years back. Our studio was next to Ed’s store in Saugatuck so we were neighbors for many years. Many fond memories and they will be missed.

  32. One of a kind!! Patty, you will be missed beyond measure! Wishing you much good health and happiness in your retirement.

Leave a Reply