City Clerk David Rushford on elections, public service and making gay marriage history

David J. Rushford is a proud and earnest public servant.

That’s as easy to see from briefly talking with him in his little-used office on a blustery Friday afternoon in February as it surely would have been when the longtime city clerk walked through the heavy wooden City Hall doors for his first shift in the mayor’s office on a day with some other kind of weather back in 1979 — we forgot to ask, but rest assured Rushford would’ve remembered.

Indeed, the 36-years-married father of two grown children and four-time grandfather remembered quickly and fondly the names of Gary Chalmers and Richard Linnell, and the number of couples, 21, who followed the pioneering men up the receding marble steps to the second-floor clerk’s office window May 17, 2004, for applications. Later that day they would be among the first legally married same-sex couples in the country.

He recalled the night he was swiftly elected by the City Council to replace his predecessor, Robert J. O’Keefe, as city clerk in 1998, and holding a separate swearing-in ceremony in 2002 for Juan Gomez, who had become the first Latino elected to the City Council. There was more, of course — he even remembered my dad, a retired, 30-plus-year city employee, who never worked in City Hall — but he had to get back to work.

Speaking of work, though, he’s toiled for 51 city councilors, 10 mayors and five city managers. Just ask him.

David J. Rushford, city clerk, takes the term public service quite seriously.

Fred Hurlbrink Jr. / Worcester Sun

David J. Rushford, city clerk, takes the term public service quite seriously.

Worcester Weekly: Six (-ish) things to do, Jan. 31-Feb. 6

The One (-ish) | Schools

Melinda J. Boone

Worcester Public Schools

Melinda J. Boone

Worcester Public Schools Superintendent search public hearings and meeting You may have heard, the schools are on the lookout for a new boss, what with their last one leaping off the hot seat Wile E. Coyote fast on the way back to her hometown in Virginia [see video from a December interview with Melinda J. Boone]. Well, the School Committee has strapped itself to the Acme rocket, so it’s time for parents and voters to pay attention.

There are two community forums and a regular school board meeting planned this week that should have a significant impact on the fortunes of frontrunners South Principal Maureen F. Binienda and interim Superintendent Marco C. Rodrigues, or a less-heralded internal candidate. Both of the Community Involvement Committee’s public hearings begin at 7 p.m. in the school auditoriums below.

Q&A: Parlee Jones, Abby’s House shelter advocate

Parlee Jones accounts for much of the slightly unexpected calm found at Abby’s House. Because, she’s on it. Visitors and colleagues take turns hanging from her door frame. There’s always someone who needs help in her office. And few, if any, leave disappointed. The women of Abby’s House are far from the only set benefiting from Jones’ devotion to public service. Find out more about one of the city’s true driving forces.

Q&A: Diane Gould, Advocates president and CEO

Some people are simply born to do what they do. The lucky ones know early on. Whether it’s a matter of talent, circumstance or destiny, they see their path clearly and walk tall toward their future.

Others struggle, a sense of direction or purpose conspicuously missing. Or something more. Challenges of infinite shapes and sizes can swallow the fortunes of the best of us and spit out lives of inimitable difficulty.

What is so often misunderstood is how much that second set needs the first; and how rare it is for these groups to come together in meaningful and constructive ways. Diane E. Gould seems to have had a pretty good idea about that for a while now. The Worcester native is president and CEO of Framingham-based Advocates, a large nonprofit social service agency.

Diane Gould, president and CEO of Advocates, is a native of Worcester who grew up in the Burncoat neighborhood.

Courtesy Advocates / Ball Consulting Group

Diane Gould, president and CEO of Advocates, is a native of Worcester who grew up in the Burncoat neighborhood.

Under Gould’s guidance the last two years — she’s been with Advocates for 30 years, and was chief operating officer several years before her appointment as CEO in 2013 — the agency has sharpened its focus on the future of care for people dealing with autism spectrum disorders; broadened the scope of its community justice work; and expanded its brain injury rehabilitation program, including a new Worcester location.

Sun Shine: Seven Hills jobs program up and running

How easy it can be to take employment for granted — even today — and to minimize all those things we forget we take home with us for the weekend besides the paycheck, like a sense of accomplishment, camaraderie and an evolving skill set. We know where you might find a few people who have a very different idea about what it means to have a job.

Q&A: Parlee Jones, Abby’s House shelter advocate

I had never been to Abby’s House. This is either fortuitous, unsurprising or completely inconsequential. One of the three. I’m not sure. No matter, nor time to figure it out, because now I’m there and wondering if I’ll be welcomed.

The outside is ambivalent, neither hiding nor exclaiming its presence — the house is a sprawling facility that temporarily houses and provides services for battered and/or homeless women — on a one-way street surrounded by the serenity of churches and the calamity of road construction. As I lose the race to the door to a little old lady in a fashionable shawl, and follow her inside, the ambivalence disappears. “I have a man with me,” she announces impishly around the corner seemingly certain I’m there for a good reason, yet without having fully turned to size up her visitor.

I’m there to talk with Parlee Jones, an accomplished civic leader who counts herself among the success stories of Abby’s House. Early for our meeting, I wait in the hallway and start to see why there exudes a strong a sense of calm in a place that deals with such chaos.

With multi-colored and time-stained quilts hanging from the walls, silver-painted radiators in the corners, a table bubbling over with portraits of lost loved ones, and mismatched wooden rocking chairs dotting the sitting room, it feels like grandma’s house. There’s even the tempting aroma of a meal simmering around the corner. (And, just before I leave a while later, that nice woman who let me in offers me a piece of chocolate candy for my ride home.)

Sun Shine: Seven Hills jobs program up and running

That clock on the wall — the one your boss sets five minutes slow — winds down on another work day, each tick toward the promised land slower than the last, and all you can think about your job is, retirement can’t come soon enough.

Safe to say many of us find ourselves in this paycheck purgatory every now and then, maybe every Friday … or Monday … you know how the expression goes. All that daydreaming about Social Security checks and Vero Beach, yet nary a thought about what we get out of our jobs, how much we really benefit from a 9-to-5 of inanity that is anything but to some folks.

How easy it can be to take employment for granted — even today, in a constantly evolving global economy and job market — and to minimize all those things we forget we take home with us for the weekend: self-worth; responsibility; a sense of accomplishment (not every day, this one!); camaraderie; an ever-growing set of skills, both vocational and social.

Then you take a ride to Seven Hills Foundation’s Aspire! facility — still with that new-car smell, from its spring 2014 opening — a sharp right off Route 9 before the Airport Mini Mart and the impending wilderness of Leicester, and most of the way up Goddard Memorial Drive. There you might find a few people who have a very different idea about what it means to have a job.