After interviews with the two finalists for the treasurer/collector position on February 8, the Marion Board of Selectmen unanimously chose Susan Laak, currently an employee of the Town of Eastham.
A resident of Sandwich, Laak told the board that the similar-sized Town of Marion, along with the shorter commute, appealed to her and prompted her to apply for the position.
Laak has been the tax collector for Eastham for a year now, she reported, and has seven years experience as a municipal treasurer for the Barnstable Fire District and was once the assistant treasurer for the Centerville-Osterville-Marstons Mills Fire District.
“It’s new to me,” said Laak about being the tax collector, “but I’m really enjoying it. It’s the first time in 30 years that I can say that I really love my job.”
Laak, who has also been certified as an accountant for 12 years, said she prefers the treasurer/collector aspect of finance more than the accounting side, but she does have experience with budget preparation, insurance, liability, municipal debt, and OPEB (other post employment benefits).
Selectman John Waterman asked Laak about what she considers to be her biggest strength and Laak told him “integrity and loyalty.”
“My loyalty to my team and helping them find their strengths,” she said. “When one of them has a weakness in one area, I help them out in trying to help them strengthen [their weakness].”
Laak says she also pays strong attention to detail, “And reconciliation – I’m weird that way, but I really love past reconciliation. … I make sure that I’m to the penny.”
When dealing with the public, Laak explained her approach, saying, “Most of the time they want somebody to sit down with them and listen to them. … I like to explain things to people because if you explain things, it shows you care and people like to think you care.”
“One of my weaknesses is being a new collector and I’m still learning,” said Laak. “But there’s such a huge amount of resources. … I’m really trying to get up to speed in what I need to do that.”
Laak’s Bachelor’s degree is in Arts and Information Technology, although she said she eventually “fell into this municipal world of accounting” and worked her way up through the ranks, beginning as a clerk. She then earned an Associates degree in Accounting as a new professional trajectory. She tried working at a computer software company but “hated it,” she admitted, mostly because she worked from home as a business analyst and prefers working with people.
“It was frustrating, and it was boring,” said Laak. She then headed to work for the Town of Eastham.
The board also interviewed Katherine Milligan, the current assistant treasurer/collector/payroll administrator for the Town of Orleans. And although the selectmen were grateful to have two qualified candidates to choose form, they found Laak was a better fit for the job.
“I liked Susan,” said Selectman Randy Parker. “I thought her answers were crisp.”
“I agree,” said Chairman Norm Hills. “She seems to be the most capable person.”
“I just felt personality and style-wise I was just more comfortable with Susan,” commented Selectman John Waterman.
The board appointed Laak in a 3-0 vote, subject to contract negotiations.
Marion Board of Selectmen
By Jean Perry