Mount Olive, state honor longtime city clerk Arlene Talton
By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 8, 2011 1:46 PM
Mount Olive City Clerk Arlene Talton, right, is hugged by town attorney Carroll Turner Monday night after she was presented the Order of the Long Leaf Pine -- the state's highest civilian award for distinguished public service. Mrs. Talton has been city clerk for 46 years.
MOUNT OLIVE -- Arlene G. Talton who has served as city clerk here for 46 years Monday night was presented the Order of the Long Leaf Pine -- the state's highest civilian award for distinguished public service.
Mrs. Talton, who was praised as "the guardian of the town's purse," was presented a framed copy of the award as well as a framed copy of a resolution adopted by the town board in her honor as well as a key to the city.
Just prior to the presentation Mrs. Talton's family, who had been waiting outside during the board meeting, entered the room.
"They didn't tell me they were coming," she said. "I really appreciate this, but I am really not this old. I am real grateful for this. I know there are other people who are much more deserving than I, but I am going to enjoy this."
Mrs. Talton said town attorney Carroll Turner had just asked her if she had been aware that something was going on while in Mayor Ray McDonald's office Monday morning.
"Somebody, I think it was (Special Projects Director) Maylon (Weeks) complimented me on my dress," she said. "I said, 'I had on my hand-me-down dress' -- I didn't know I was coming to a party. I just appreciate everybody being here. I just thought it was just another work night and I was going to go home and finish eating."
A reception in Mrs. Talton's honor was held at the town's old train depot following the meeting.
Turner who spearheaded the efforts to secure the honor apologized in advance that he "might choke up" while making the presentation.
"We are particularly proud tonight because the person being honored is one of our colleagues, one of our co-workers and an employee of the town of Mount Olive," Turner said.
Reading from one of the nominating letters, Turner said, "Mrs. Talton has served continuously for the last 46 years as city clerk, many of those years as finance officer. A staunch fiscal conservative she is truly the guardian of the town's purse. She has a well-earned reputation for accounting for every penny of the town's money."
Shortly after being named clerk, Mrs. Talton discovered she was pregnant with twins, Turner said. Her husband, Hoover, died shortly thereafter and she raised her twin sons and older daughter as a single parent, he said.
At the same time, she served the town and its citizens as a devoted and loyal employee, he added.
One son, Kenny, is an inspector with the city of Goldsboro and is a Mount Olive commissioner. Her son, Kevin, is a doctor and medical director at Mount Olive Family Medicine Center. Her daughter, Dr. Kathy Best, is a professor at Mount Olive College.
"She is at work every day, generally the first to arrive, the last to leave and believe it or not has no plans to retire," Turner read. "Her devotion to the citizens of Mount Olive and the state are unequaled."
McDonald, who presented the framed award, said, "Forty seven years ago this May I was elected to the (town) board. Arlene's husband, Hoover Talton, was on that board. I get choked up when I talk about this. Here I was a 29-year-old trying to learn about the town and he took me under his wing and told me the do's and the don'ts and the day he died this town lost a true patriot. He did a lot for this town.
"Arlene, she had her hands full, but you would have never known what was going on in her life and I know it was a lot. She kept this town going. The finances of the town have always been her first concern. This town owes Mrs. Talton a debt of gratitude that this plaque cannot give her. We owe it to her for what she has meant for this community and this town."
McDonald said Turner joined the board shortly after he did and that they both had been "kind of raised up" by Mrs. Talton.
"When I became town manager I learned real quick," he said. "(Former mayor, the late) D.F. Odom told me, 'If you want to know anything about the town of Mount Olive, you talk to Arlene. If you get in financial trouble, you talk to Arlene.' So everything I did from that day on, I talked to Arlene. She knows more about the finances of this town than anybody else. She knows where the money and where she has some hid if she needs something."
Turner presented the town's framed resolution joking that it was bigger than the one from the governor and McDonald told her she would have to sign the check for it.
"Now you have the key to the vault," Turner said.
Reading the resolution, Turner said it is believed that Mrs. Talton is the second longest-serving city clerk in the state's history.