Rappahannock County Treasurer Frances Foster was surprised Monday by the board of supervisors and County Administrator John McCarthy with a plaque to commemorate her 50 years of dedicated service to the county, as both treasurer and deputy treasurer. (She was sent for on the pretext that the supervisors had a budget-related question for her to address at the meeting.)
After a brief talk by Supervisors Chairman Roger Welch, Foster, who announced during last November’s election that it would be the last time she ran for the office, received a standing ovation as Welch handed the plaque over (see the photo on page 1).
Foster spoke with the Rappahannock News’ Alex Sharp VIII after Monday’s supervisors meeting; following are some interview highlights:
What led you to this job?
April 9, 1962 was my first day. The [deputy treasurer] job was advertised. I was working at Newberry’s [department store] in Front Royal at the time, and I heard it was open so I applied to Mr. [Robert L.] Brown – he was the treasurer – and he talked to Mrs. [Mary Hart] Winfrey – who was my 12th-grade English teacher – and that’s the only person he talked to, and that’s how I got the job.
I went to Rappahannock, graduated down here on Lee Avenue. I went to the seventh grade at Sperryville; they transported the seventh grade to Sperryville, in the school house up there. The elementary school was in the same place.
I was born in Sperryville in March of ’37, and we moved out on Fodderstack in – let me see if I get this right now – in December? . . . We’ve lived out there ever since; my family was moved from Sperryville, because they moved them from the [Shenandoah National] Park.
How has the county changed since 1962?
In ’62, I knew practically all the people in the county because I went to school with them and I could connect with their families . . . But now we’ve got a lot of weekenders. It’s changed. I mean it’s good, it’s just changed; it’s harder for me to remember the names that we have now, with the new people.
Who are some of the characters you recall?
Mr. Jack Miller, he used to come in and sit across the counter and talk, all the time. And he would come in and smoke his ci-gar, and Mr. Brown told him, “You’ve got to stop smokin’ your ci-gar,” because I was allergic to it [she laughs] – and that broke his heart. But anyway, he always came back. He was a nice fella. Now Mr. Dick Miller was Newbill Miller’s father; nice fella. Newbill was an excellent supervisor; very nice, and every time he’d come in the office he would always say, “You gonna run again, aren’t ya?” And the last time he was in, that was what he told me.
What was the nature of your job when you started here?
When I first went here to work, I went out and collected taxes, in stores, in the fall . . . you’d go sit at the store – like Bradford’s Store [now Merry Moo Market]. I went down to Castleton down there where Cannon and them had it, down to Amissville, too. But yeah, Mr. Brown used to go out, and then when I came in [as deputy treasurer] he sent me out. I wouldn’t do it now, no way – because you’d be robbed or something; back then you could do it because everybody knew everybody.
I had an old Underwood typewriter and I had to type all the tax bills, and that was – wooo! – that was hard.
And what are you using now?
Umm, computer [more laughter]. But I’m not crazy about a computer either, because that’s new to me, you know; I didn’t have that when I went to school. I only use a computer when I really need to use it.
If you hadn’t done this, what would you have been doing for these past 50 years? Would you have stayed here?
Oh yeah, I’d be here. I wouldn’t go to a city; I’ve been to the city . . . I’ve travelled to different places with Beverly [Atkins] and Betsy Murray and Doris Gore; we went to Hawaii one year and we’ve been to Maine and I’ve been to Florida – but I wouldn’t trade Rappahannock for any of ’em. They are pretty, but nothing like Rappahannock.
Do you have any regrets, looking back on these 50 years?
No, no. People probably don’t think that the treasurer has much responsibility, but they do; it really is a responsible job to carry on. You collect taxes and you pay the bills for the government and the county, and you’re responsible for any shortage if you come up short – which, knock on wood, I’ve been very lucky with that. I’ve had good employees; that means a whole lot.
Is there anything you’d like to say about the commemorations of your 50 years?
Well I consider it a great honor. And I really appreciate the votes that I’ve had, and I haven’t had any opposition; that has been wonderful . . . I have worked hard at it. I have not let it go. I’ve worked hard at it. That’s why I’m gray [she laughs again, pointing to her silver hair].
It’s been an honor to serve, it really has.