Florance Merrifield has for more than three decades been the first face visitors see when they enter the Hope Town Office.

In fact, she worked for the town before there even was a town office.

That’s about to change.

After 32 years serving as Hope’s town clerk and tax collector, Merrifield has announced her retirement. Her last day will be Friday, Feb. 26.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” she said Jan. 27. “I’ve had some fun times here.”

Merrifield has recorded the births, deaths and marriages in town for more than 30 years. She has recorded the birth of a child, issued a copy of the birth record when the child started school, issued another copy when that same child wanted to take driver’s education, registered the child to vote and then issued a marriage license when the person got married.

Merrifield said she’s been asked if it’s come full circle to record the birth of someone, then record the birth of that same person’s child, but to her knowledge, that hasn’t happened.

In 1978, Merrifield was asked to be the deputy town clerk and tax collector, a job she performed from her home. The position came with no set hours, so she had people stopping by her house from early in the morning until late at night.

She became the town clerk in 1981 after residents elected her to a one-year position. Merrifield continued to be re-elected to the job, until it was changed to an appointed position in 1999. She said she can only recall one time that she ever faced a contested race for the job.

The Hope Town Office opened after the town took ownership of the current Camden Road location in 1988 when the Hope Corner school closed. At the same time, Faith Hart retired as tax collector, a role Merrifield took on, and that’s when she began working from the town office with set hours.

Since Merrifield has never had a driver’s license, her husband, Lewis, has picked her up and dropped her off at work for the past 21 years.

Although Merrifield is responsible for entering most of the town’s records in the computer, she said she is not a fan of the technology. Shortly after she moved to the town office, she entered into the computer the records of all the town’s properties, which are listed with a map and the lot with all the values and names and addresses of each owner. She also entered all residents’ motor vehicle information, voter registration lists, tax bills and other information.

“It’s a computer world,” she said. “I don’t think much of it, but that’s the way it goes.”

The biggest change Merrifield has noticed in the town over the years is population growth. She has seen the town grow from a small neighborhood community with a population of 450 in 1970, to a much larger community with a population of about 1,500 today.

Aside from Warren, which takes into account the Maine State Prison population, Hope is expected to see the largest growth in Knox County with more than a 10 percent increase from 2000. So in terms of actual people moving into town, Hope is number one in growth.

“You used to know your neighbors; now you don’t,” Merrifield said.

Years ago, she said, she knew every person who came into the town office. Today there are a lot of new faces.

An avid scrapbook maker, Merrifield has put together six for the town. Four of them include materials from when town officials used to get together once a month for lunch. In 2007, when the town was revalued, photos were taken of each building for the property cards. Merrifield made copies of each photo and put together a scrapbook of all the homes in Hope, which are sorted by road, map and lot, and street address. The book is now at the Hope Historical Society. Her latest town scrapbook tracked the construction of the new Hope Fire Station.

Merrifield began making scrapbooks when she was awaiting the arrival of her first grandchild, who is now 12 years old. She has made a number of scrapbooks for her three children and has also made books for family reunions and other family events.

From her first day on the job to her last day, Merrifield said, her interest has always been the townspeople. And that’s what she will miss the most as she heads into retirement — the people and chatting with everyone who comes into the town office.

Merrifield has no major plans for retirement, except to “sit back and enjoy,” she said.

With vegetable and flower gardening, camping, making scrapbooks and catching up on other things she’s put off, she’ll have enough to keep her busy.

And, she said, she might sleep in late some days.

A retirement party will be held for Merrifield Tuesday, Feb. 23 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Hope Town Office. All are invited to attend.