PROVINCETOWN — Elizabeth Paine, the select board’s secretary for the last five years, has been promoted to town clerk, besting 14 other candidates for the position, which pays $86,516 a year.
Although she only had to move down the hall for this career advance, her path has not been a straight one. A single mother of three children, ages 13, 9, and 4, Paine said that access to child-care vouchers helped her stay in school and work after her first child, Nolan, was born.
Her educational route has been roundabout because of a language processing disorder.
“My mother had me in tutoring, and it was intense,” she said. “She put a lot into helping me overcome some of the hurdles that I have.”
Paine, 38, grew up in Wellfleet, the youngest of four daughters. While at Nauset Regional High School, she also studied at Cape Cod Community College — the schools’ Dual Enrollment Program allows students to earn high school and college credits simultaneously. She also studied abroad in France through a community college program and then enrolled at Bridgewater State College.
“I decided that was not for me,” Paine said. “So I got my esthetician license and moved to Hawaii.”
She returned to the Cape each summer to help run her family’s business, Paine’s Campground, which her parents sold to the state Dept. of Conservation and Recreation in 2018. The summer she became pregnant with Nolan, she said, she decided she wanted to stay closer to her family.
Paine hunkered down in Wellfleet working as a certified nursing assistant while taking courses to become a dental hygienist. But when a car accident left her with an arm injury that refused to heal properly, that made the prospect of dental work less appealing. That’s when she took her first office job, as an assistant in the Dennis Dept. of Health.
“I really thrived in office work,” she said.
She used her organizational skills and a memory for deadlines and regulations to compensate for her difficulties with reading comprehension. It was a good fit, she said.
In 2017, after a stint in the treasurer’s office at Orleans Town Hall, Paine accepted the position of select board secretary in Provincetown. She enrolled and completed a Suffolk University public administration certification program designed to provide municipal management skills to build a work force on Cape Cod. That program primed her for job promotions. But she said she does not feel ready to be an assistant town manager — yet.
Since 2017, Paine has worked with five town managers: David Panagore, David Gardner (when he was serving as interim), Robin Craver, Charlie Sumner, and Alex Morse.
During 2020 and part of 2021, when almost no one else came in to town hall to work, Paine and Assistant Town Clerk Ana Ruiz showed up in person, said select board member Louise Venden.
“She has really gone the extra mile,” Venden said. “And she is helpful to anyone who needs it.”
Last year, Venden and John Golden, also a select board member, were so impressed by Paine’s work that they proposed giving her a raise and a new title. But the rest of the board opted to wait for a reclassification hearing to determine a new wage scale for all municipal employees. Meanwhile, the town clerk position opened up.
Morse told the Independent that he hired Paine based on her skills and her “demonstrated ability through her work as the secretary to the select board.”
As town clerk, she will use her customer service strengths for the job’s many public interactions, from issuing dog licenses to keeping marriage, birth, and death records. She will also oversee all local and state elections.
Paine lives in Orleans, where she is a member of that town’s affordable housing committee. Like most people her age, housing has been front and center among her life challenges.
“I was very fortunate that when my parents sold the campground they decided to help stabilize my housing,” Paine said. “The home that I live in they purchased with the stipulation that I was to buy them out within three years.” That was in 2018, she said, and she was able to buy them out in 2020.
“That was a big motivation of mine, getting to the place of having a job that would allow me to get the loan that I needed,” she continued.
Now that she must be at town hall by 8 a.m., leaving nieces and other relatives to get her children off to school, her motivation will be to get home by 6 p.m. and hope that her son has started prepping dinner.
“I was raised with this attitude that you just got to get it done,” Paine said. “And I have been blessed that everything has just aligned correctly.”