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Accountant takes up role as Malverne's village clerk

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After working in both the private and public sectors for more than 20 years, Malverne’s new village clerk, Averil Smith, said that she is ready to stay in one place. Smith, who was appointed two weeks ago, said she hoped to call Malverne her second home for years to come.

“They promised to keep me challenged here,” Smith told the Herald, “so I’m looking forward to making a difference in the village.”

Smith, 54, of Elmont, is a certified public accountant, and served as the Town of Hempstead’s finance director under Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, who left office on Dec. 31. “What a learning place that was,” Smith said with a grin. “It made me appreciate the value of good government. I was fortunate that Supervisor Gillen was going after an agenda that was focused on taxpayers’ dollars being used properly.”

Before that, she worked as the Town of North Hempstead comptroller from 2015 to 2017. During her tenure, the town’s credit rating was upgraded to AAA, the highest a municipality can achieve. One of her proudest achievements, Smith said, was when she identified a former worker who had embezzled more than $98,000 from the town’s Solid Waste Management Authority. The employee, Helen McCann, pleaded guilty in 2018 to one count of second- degree corrupting the government.

“I’m proud of that because it could’ve easily gone unnoticed,” Smith recalled. “It wasn’t a lot of money in the grand scheme of a $120 million budget, but it wasn’t her money to have.”

Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett said the village had hoped to find someone who could help build on the finance work done under Terry Emmel, who retired in November after serving for 16 years as village clerk.

“It’s not always easy to find someone with a strong financial background at the village level,” Corbett said at Malverne’s Feb. 5 meeting, at which Smith was sworn in. “She’s an amazing financial wizard. We were lucky in so many ways that someone of Averil’s caliber — when it comes to finances and accounting — was willing to come on and work with us.”

Smith said that compared with her previous positions, her job as village clerk entails more than working with finances. The biggest difference, she said, is having the opportunity to work with residents on a personal level.

“I’ll be dealing with more direct questions and concerns with residents,” Smith said. “None of that gives me cause for pause except that it’s a lot more time-consuming. But it helps to know that I’m 10 minutes from home.”

Dealing with taxpayers’ money, Smith added, is a big responsibility. “That’s one of the things that I’ve preached to my team in the past,” she said. “It’s not just a refrain for me. It’s how I feel, because I, too, am a taxpayer.”

Smith said that she has accomplished many of her goals during her career, and the reason she looks for new challenges is to avoid becoming too comfortable. Going forward, she said, she is most excited to see how the village will keep her on her toes.

“I could go back to working for a private enterprise, but I really like what I do now,” Smith said. “The village board had to convince me a little bit, but I never questioned their commitment to making Malverne great. I’m just happy to be a part of this village.”