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Town employee still learning after 40 years

Stephanie Mlot
Frederick News-Post

(8/9) Arleen Donnelly, a 37-year employee of Thurmont, was promoted in October to chief financial officer, and handles general accounting chores, along with the town budget.

After 37 years on the job, Arleen Donnelly is still learning.

In October, Donnelly took over Thurmont 's role of chief financial officer when longtime employee Rick May retired. Two snowstorms and one fiscal year budget later, Donnelly is catching up to the job.

"Even though I've been here a long time, it's still a learning process," she said.

Previously, Donnelly did accounting work with the town's electric, water and sewer bills. Now, she handles writing checks, allocating payments, payroll and answering customer questions -- all while keeping a constant eye on the budget.

Having a good working relationship with the mayor and board of commissioners helps, she said. They are able to discuss accounting issues and changes with the group, which makes the process flow.

But Donnelly is feeling the pressure that comes along with her promotion.

"It's more stressful, just because of not knowing," she said. "But it's a good job."

The fiscal 2011 budget, Donnelly's first on her own, took several months of sporadic work.

She is hopeful that next year's budget will be a shorter process, now that she knows the figures and where they come from. "It was just tying it all together" this year, Donnelly said.

When necessary, she gets advice from May, but tries to solve problems on her own.

"I think there's a lot to learn," she said. "Everything changes, nothing's the same."

Despite the stresses of work, she finds time every morning to slow down and recoup. Starting her day at 7 a.m. -- an hour before the town offices open -- gives her some time to clear her head, "before all the chaos breaks out."

When Donnelly started working for the town, she welcomed the opportunity to work close to home after the birth of her first son.

"I was able to be close to my children when they were growing up," said Donnelly, who has three sons. "It was just a better opportunity for me to work here than go down the road and fight the traffic."

Donnelly's extended family, which just welcomed a new granddaughter last week, lives less than 10 minutes away.

"I do like to crochet, do word puzzles, things like that, but most of my (spare) time is spent with my family."

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