Louise Miller is running unopposed for Town Clerk/ Credit: Needham Observer

When Theodora ‘Tedi” K. Eaton — then known as Tedi Bertolet — became Needham’s town clerk in 1982, Louise Miller was a freshman pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at MIT, only a few years removed from immigrating to the United States from France.  

When town election votes are counted on April 9, Eaton’s 42-year tenure as the town’s record keeper and chief election officer will come to an end and Miller, who is unopposed for the clerk’s position, will begin a new era in Needham government.

While Eaton is currently the town’s longest-tenured elected official, Miller has carved out a varied career, first as a litigation attorney and later in public service, that seems to well position her to fill the void Eaton’s departure will create.

As an uncontested candidate, Miller has already begun the transition process, training alongside Eaton in the clerk’s office. Miller is no stranger to Town Hall, having held appointed, elected and full-time positions in Needham over the past two decades, including her current role as chair of the Finance Committee.

“It is a big job, for sure,” Miller said of the clerk’s role. “I have had a fair amount of interaction with the office because I’m always in need of information. But it’s also been eye-opening to learn about the scale of the responsibilities.

“Obviously I can’t be involved and I’m not in any way involved in this year’s local election, but I was helping with the presidential primary, learning what the systems are.”

While election management is the office’s major duty, Miller is also learning the ropes of processing the 5,000 certified copies of deaths, births and marriages every year; conducting the annual census; issuing 3,300 dog licenses as well as business certificates, raffle permits and public meeting notices; records management and myriad other tasks Eaton has described as “a secretary of state’s office at the local level.”

Similar paths to office

As is true today with Miller, Eaton had no clerk-specific experience in 1982 when her predecessor Rose O. Mackenzie convinced her to run for the position. Eaton had been secretary to the Select Board so she had the same familiarity with town issues that Miller possesses.

Miller, also like Eaton, was encouraged to pursue the role by her predecessor. Eaton strongly considered not seeking re-election in 2022, but ultimately decided to return. 

Miller was not in a position to seek the office in 2022 having accepted the position of chief financial officer for the city of Framingham in January after spending more than three years as town administrator in nearby Wayland. She resigned at the end of 2023, freeing her to run for Eaton’s position. 

Miller stressed she did not leave her position in Framingham expressly to run for clerk. She soured on her experience with the city, her office unable to fill much-needed accounting positions. She was ready for a change and planned to evaluate opportunities in other communities.

“The chronology was one of accident,” she said. “My resigning didn’t have anything to do with the town clerk position.”

As she assessed her options, Miller gave strong weight to her role as a primary caregiver to her aging mother. Ultimately, the convenience of working in the town where she lives compelled her to seek the clerk position. A prospective opponent did not return papers, so Miller is running unopposed.

Town clerk will not be her first elected office in Needham, nor will it be her first time on the town payroll. She was elected to the School Committee in 2005, but resigned midterm to work as an executive secretary/budget analyst for the Finance Committee.

Miller spent three years with FinCom and another three years as supervisor of administrative services for the Department of Public Works before leaving Needham to work for the city of Medford.

Because she was no longer a town employee, Miller was able to accept an appointment in 2012 from Moderator Michael Fee as a member of the FinCom, a volunteer position that she currently holds but will relinquish once she becomes clerk.

“I would have stayed on the Finance Committee had this not come up,” she said. “I wasn’t planning on leaving the Finance Committee.”

John Connelly, FinCom’s longest tenured member, said Miller will not be easy to replace. “Her knowledge of the town and its operations is really encyclopedic,” he said. “She has this great depth of knowledge and experience and recall. Really, it might be unprecedented.

“But nothing’s in place forever. In any organization or committee or group, you lose good people and then you just have to re-gear and shift. And that’s what we’ll do.”

Eaton and Miller also share a straightforward, unfiltered manner of communication. 

“She’s not really worried about what people are going to think of what she says,” Connelly said of Miller’s no-nonsense approach. ”She’s strong in her beliefs and her opinions and expresses them forthrightly and immediately.

“I think she’s going to be a great town clerk, not just because of how much she knows the town but how much she cares about the town.”

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