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Leverett assessor retires after 36 years of service

Calling his 36 years of service to the town “a good long run,” Donald Robinson said he will step down from his post as assessor this year. Robinson, who has been serving as chairman of the Board of Assessors since 1977, informed the Select Board last week he will retire, saying, “it was about time.”

“The board is in great shape,” said Robinson. “We have two other great assessors, and an excellent administrative assessor. It’s a good time to look for someone else to serve.”

Robinson’s service to the town began in 1976, when he was nominated for a one-year term on the Select Board by his father-in-law, Cliff LaClaire.

“It was my first town meeting,” recalled Robinson. “I didn’t know he was going to nominate me. It was a bit of a surprise.” Robinson, a native of Springfield, served for one year on the Leverett Select Board, switching to the Board of Assessors in 1977, after its chairman, Chester Woodard, died. Neither of the other assessors at that time wanted to head the board, so Robinson took the job in his first term and has held it ever since.

Robinson says he considers the assessors’ role to be a public service.

“It is very rewarding; it is a service,” said Robinson. “The cash flow of the town is dependent on the assessors’ work.” The board — its other members are Catherine Ford and James Hicks — meets the first and third Monday of every month and performs field work on weekends. It assesses the values of town properties, maintains property record cards, and performs field inspections on new construction, renovations and recent sales.

Robinson said the position, while rewarding, took away family time.

“I had a young family at the time,” said Robinson, who with his wife, Sara LaClaire has three children. “It did take many weekends away.”

Robinson added that the assessor’s position is less of a commitment than it was when he began three decades ago.

“Much of the field work that was done by the assessors then is now done by the administrative assessor,” he said. In Leverett, that position is held by Stephen Schmidt.

Robinson also credits Smith College lecturer David Palmer with updating Leverett’s town maps and creating homegrown assessing software, which the town used for 15 years. Robinson said the software saved the town money because it meant it did not have to purchase the state-recommended commercial software.

Robinson is also the director of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety and an adjunct professor in the Public Health Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

A new assessor will be chosen at the annual Town Meeting in April. According to Robinson, Leverett is one of the only towns in Massachusetts in which the assessor is still nominated from the floor of the Town Meeting. Robinson will continue in his post until the meeting.

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