Wellesley bids farewell to a treasure of a treasurer

While you might not know Marc Waldman’s face, his name very well could ring a bell: It’s on every Wellesley real estate and excise tax bill and on every check that the town issues.

But that will soon change, as Waldman retires this week after nearly 33 years on the job as Wellesley’s treasurer.

Waldman didn’t have any particular connection to Wellesley when he started, but he leaves with many of them in town and beyond through his work here.

“He is widely recognized as the ‘Face of Wellesley’ Town Government, as he is active in many municipal organizations and has been for a long time,” says Wellesley Finance Director/CFO Sheryl Strother, who has worked with Waldman for 15 years and known him longer than that.

marc waldman treasurer
Marc Waldman, as the town’s new treasurer more than 30 years ago (photo via Town of Wellesley)

 

Waldman had been with the city of Dover, Del., when he saw the Wellesley job advertised in a national trade organization newsletter.  His first boss, from when he worked for the town of Concord, Mass., recommended the job, particularly because Waldman would get to work for esteemed Wellesley Executive Director Arnold Wakelin, a town employee for 47 years.

Waldman didn’t quite match that mark, but has stuck around for a good long time because he has loved so many parts of the job.

“It is an interesting job that has allowed me to develop expertise in other areas, particularly health insurance.  I was allowed to serve on a number of different outside state and national organizations that not many Treasurer/Collectors get the opportunity to do. My staff and all of the other department heads I have worked with over the years have been terrific. It is a great office space,” Waldman says.

Lowlights and highlights

Not to say that being “the taxman” doesn’t come with its share of challenges and difficult customers. Waldman’s had angry people show up at the office, including one woman many years ago who had him scared that she might do harm to the staff and required police intervention. Waldman says his fairly big physical stature has helped to diffuse some situations during trying face-to-face interactions.

One career lowlight was self-inflicted. “Very early in my career here, the Town was just implementing quarterly real estate tax billing.  The third quarter bills generate at the end of the calendar year.  I gave instructions for the bills to be mailed just before Christmas. The Townsman ran a cartoon about the evil Tax Collector trying to ruin everyone’s holiday. Suffice it to say, we never mailed the third quarter bill prior to Christmas day again.”

Highlights have far outweighed the lowlights though.

Waldman says he’s “extremely proud of the high level of customer service that my department has always strived to provide to the taxpayers and employees of the Town of Wellesley.”

Another highlight was the creation of the West Suburban Health Group that the Town obtains its employee and retiree health insurance through and that Waldman has chaired since its inception in 1990.

Big changes on the job

The biggest change in the job over the years boils down to one word: “Technology.”

Waldman says it has enabled the town to provide so much more information to the public even as it decreased in-person interactions well before COVID-19 exacerbated that trend.

“I have always loved the public contact aspect of my job,” Waldman says. “I would love tax due dates when I could just sit out front in my office and take customers’ payments as they walked in.  I loved engaging with them.  I think you would find that most people who have been associated with the Town would recognize that I very much have an open door policy.”

wellesley town hall payments box
Wellesley Treasurer Marc Waldman (left), alongside DPW’s Ricky Phillipo, shows off what was then a new payments box in 2015. It has since been replaced with a bigger one to handle mail-in voting & more, and that box will named in Waldman’s honor.

 

The emergence of improved technology for handling bills hasn’t entirely simplified things for the treasurer/collector’s office. “It has been a challenge to keep up with payment technologies.  Unlike other industries, when we introduce new payment systems that allow for things like credit card and on-line payments, we cannot abandon the old technologies of cash and checks, so there are no efficiencies to recognize and no workload gets alleviated,” Waldman says.

The treasurer/collector operation has been designated an essential service during the pandemic, so Waldman’s team has been working in Town Hall since the state of emergency kicked in. Though the design of the office makes it virtually impossible to engage with the public in person under COVID-19 restrictions.

It’s a wrap

Waldman feels confident that successor Rachel Lopes, who has about 10 years of experience working in the town’s finance department, will keep things running smoothly upon his departure. The outgoing town treasurer, who Finance Director/CFO Strother says “has mentored countless subordinates and peers over the years,” will be available to consult with Lopes during the transition.

Waldman also will remain as the Town’s Board representative to the West Suburban Health Group. He may be available to other communities for consulting services, too.

But Waldman swears that he’s really retiring. “I will be praying for this pandemic to end so I can get back to the eating out and traveling that I love so much.  My wife will continue to work, as she is not so sure she is ready to spend all of her time with me.”

 


support swellesley