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Margaret Riley is a small town treasure

By Carol Kent

One of my favorite things about both Holmes and Washington counties is that in a world so full of division and selfishness, we have managed to keep our sense of community and giving. To see a living example of this, one doesn’t need to look farther than Wausau’s own Margaret Riley, an often unsung hero for the town and its residents.

Margaret locked the doors to Wausau Town Hall last week for the last time, retiring from her post as Town Clerk after more than 27 years of faithful service. 

Anyone who knows Margaret understands those years of service went beyond routine business hours and duties. It wasn’t uncommon for Margaret to take food to shut-ins, stop by to check on someone she heard was ill, or take on extra tasks, such as ensuring the participants were properly lined up for the town’s annual parades. Truly, her dedication to Wausau and its residents extended beyond balancing books and keeping minutes, far past the boundaries of the physical office.

Margaret Riley, pictured here with her husband, James, has served the Town of Wausau for nearly three decades. [CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

Inside the office, countless projects were likely made successful because of Margaret’s behind-the-scenes meticulous attention to details and deadlines. From ensuring that council members dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s on various required state and federal documents, she also looked for grants and other ways to bolster the general health of the town. Surely, projects such as the upgrades at the Possum Palace and Sportsplex, as well as the construction of the splash pad and Wausau’s new fire station all are owed – at least in part – to Margaret’s dedication and love for her hometown. Much of this work was done quietly and without anyone realizing the vast role she played as the “lady behind the curtain.â€

I’ve often said that Wausau could be used as a template for how a small government body should operate. That, too, is largely thanks to Margaret. From a journalist’s viewpoint, she was a dream with which to work. Not only were public record requests answered quickly; she always went the extra mile to make sure our reporters understood complicated issues and ensured public business was kept in the sunshine. Perhaps less importantly – but just as meaningful – she always kept a pot of coffee fresh and ready for caffeine addicts like to me enjoy during town meetings.

When asked what she will miss most about her work at Wausau Town Hall, her answer is sincere, albeit no surprise: “The people,†she said. “My residents. I will miss just seeing everyone in my day-to-day.â€

The feeling is mutual, Margaret. With all the opportunities you had to pursue other endeavors, you still chose to invest nearly three decades of your life in us. We are forever grateful for your unwavering devotion to Wausau and Washington County.

Carol Kent is Publisher of Holmes County Advertiser and Washington County News. Reach her at ckent@kentsmith.biz

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