GLEN RIDGE, NJ — Since portions of Bloomfield broke off from the town and became Glen Ridge in the late 1800s, six municipal clerks have worked for the borough. With the retirement of Michael Rohal earlier this summer, Glen Ridge welcomed Tara Ventola as his successor on July 14 — making her the only the seventh clerk and the first woman to hold the job in Glen Ridge’s entire 125-year history.
“They all had long-term careers in Glen Ridge,” Ventola said in a phone interview with the Glen Ridge Paper on July 28. “It’s exciting, because there’s some big shoes to fill. And it’s an honor to be the first woman, because there’s not a lot of careers where you have that opportunity.”
Ventola, who grew up in and still lives in Bloomfield, isn’t completely new to Glen Ridge. She started working in the building department in 2004 and began taking municipal clerk certification classes in 2012. In 2015 she was certified, and she became the deputy clerk in 2018.
The certification process Ventola went through to work her way up the ranks is more intensive than many people realize — she had to pass all five Rutgers University courses and the state certification exam with a score of 80 or higher. At the same time, she was working full time and raising her son. And municipal clerks have to be recertified every two years.
“I think the job is more than people realize, too,” Ventola said. “I’m the secretary of the governing body; I’m the liaison between the mayor and the residents; I keep track of historical records.”
Ventola also interacts with Glen Ridge residents a lot, often as the first person people call at Town Hall. It’s something she did at her job in the building department, too, and a skill set she has that she knew would make her a good fit for the job.
“I loved working in the town and meeting people,” Ventola said. “I would meet and interact with people who were renovating their house and are now friends. Every day is different. You get to deal with new people every day. It’s a great way to use your communication skills. If you come in with a positive attitude, they really respond to that.”
The last few months have been a little different, because Ventola hasn’t been able to have that face-to-face interaction with Glen Ridgers. Working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, she was handling everything from her laptop. The staff at Town Hall is now in the building for a limited time each day, two or three people at a time, still waiting to find out when the building will open completely. Until then, Ventola’s pressing on virtually.
“It was surreal sitting in my living room and taking my oath,” Ventola joked about her swearing-in ceremony to become the clerk. “Managing council meetings over teleconference is a whole new world.”
Glen Ridge was able to put together a socially distant ceremonial swearing-in that Ventola’s family could attend, with Essex County Clerk Christopher Durkin swearing her in. Since then, it’s been full speed ahead.
“I definitely plan on staying here for my entire career,” she said. “It’s a great town to work in.”