NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – When Elaine Flynn announced back in January that she would not be seeking re-election to a sixth consecutive term, the longtime Middlesex County Clerk didn’t quite imagine her last year in office would unfold quite the way it has.
"It's a little disheartening not to have the chance to say good-bye to everyone," said Flynn, noting that for most of 2020, 'everything was canceled.' "This is not how I imagined my last year as county clerk to be."
Flynn, a Democrat and former math and science teacher who resides in Old Bridge, was first elected county clerk in 1995, defeating the late Dennis Little, the Republican incumbent, to become the first female to hold the seat. Over the past 25 years, she has been re-elected to five consecutive five-year terms, making her the longest serving clerk in county history.
"When I first started, I probably knew one to five percent of people in the room. Now, if I go to an event, I am amazed at how many people I know," said Flynn. "I have met so many wonderful people over the years."
As clerk, Flynn oversaw the processing of documents for county residents on behalf of many levels of federal, state and local government, including recording and preserving all property transactions and filing military discharges. She also served as passport clerk, overseeing the swearing in and certifying of notaries, and, over the course of her career, officiated close to 4,000 weddings.
Additionally, she was charged with preparing ballots and certifying election results and noted that 2020 was an unprecedented year in her career. "This was an incredible election year. We sent out over a half million Vote-by-Mail ballots," Flynn said.
Under Flynn, the clerk’s department was also modernized with some 40 million documents and free electronic filings of documents, such as closings and land searches, made available online to the public. "When I came here 25 years ago, we had no computers…We had typewriters and everything was done on paper," she said, noting that during her administration, 'hundreds of thousands of books were imaged and archived and can now be accessed online.'
An advocate for seniors, Flynn also worked during her fourth term to implement the Middlesex County Veteran's Service Card,
a courtesy service card available through the Passport Office to all veterans in acknowledgement of service rendered to the United States of America. Additionally, she worked to develop the Veteran's Advantage Booklet, which contains the names of businesses and companies offering discounts to veterans with proof of military service.
"I will do anything for the veterans; they keep us free and freedom isn't cheap," she said.
Flynn and her husband, William, an attorney, former assemblyman, and past mayor of Old Bridge, are parents to four daughters and have 10 grandchildren, and one great granddaughter, Eliana, who was born this past June. Next July, they will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. "We still like each other besides love each other," she said.
In addition to serving as clerk, Flynn, over the past 25 years, also sat on numerous boards and commissions. She was a member and past president of the Constitutional Officers Association of New Jersey (COANJ) and a member of International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers (IACREOT) as well as a member of the Municipal Clerks’ Association. Additionally, she is involved with the Women’s Political Caucus and is co-founder of the Federation of Democratic Women, which she established about 13 years ago with Amy Papi.
Proud to have attended five Democratic National Conventions, , serving as a delegate at four of them, Flynn said one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences of her career was getting to hear then-Senator Barack Obama speak.
" There had to be about 20,000 people in the room; it was all noise with people talking and having a good time, but then he started to speak and little by little the place went quiet. He was such an inspirational speaker you could hear a pin drop," she said. "I remember that experience so well. It was very moving."
Flynn said she is proud of the progress and accomplishments the clerk’s office has made under her tenure and, during a 2015 interview with TAPinto, was quoted saying, 'I love coming to work, the variety of the job, and interacting, on a daily basis, with every town and community in the county.'
That sentiment, it appears, still remains.
"The past 25 years have been absolutely wonderful. This job was great. I love it, there is no question about that, but it's time to start sleeping late and do all those things other people do at 65," she said.
Flynn's term expired Dec. 31, 2020; she will be succeeded by Democrat Nancy Pinkin, current 18th L.D. Assemblywoman, effective Jan. 1, 2021.