Person of the Week
Town Clerk J. Stacey Yarbrough Loves Helping Residents Participate in Government
J. Stacey Yarbrough has been elected as the town clerk/tax collector/registrar of vital records for the Town of North Haven since 2009. (Photo courtesy of J. Stacey Yarbrough )
Growing up in a “very political family” in Mississippi, J. Stacey Yarbrough always dreamed of becoming an attorney. Though she fulfilled that dream and practiced law for nearly a decade, after having children, she found a new path. Stacey has now served as the Town of North Haven’s elected town clerk/tax collector/registrar of vital records since 2009.
“I ended up somewhere I never thought I’d be,” says Stacey. “I love my job. I feel like I can help other people show up and participate in government. I have learned a lot along the way and it helps me be a better person and if I ever return to law, my experience will make me a better attorney.”
After earning her bachelors degree in history from Arizona State University and her law degree from Quinnipiac University, Stacey met her husband, Brian Crouch, at a dinner for the Walter Camp Foundation. The couple has now been married for nearly 17 years, living in North Haven where Brian grew up since 2002. They have two children, 12 year-old Isabella and 8 year-old Riley.
Stacey had been practicing law for nearly a decade when Isabella was born. After her child’s arrival, she began to question her grueling schedule as an attorney, though she was unsure what to do as she needed to continue to work to pay off her loans from law school.
“I had a baby and life changed. In that first year I felt like I never saw her and was down and out,” says Stacey. “The former chair of the Republican Town Committee approached me to ask if I’d be interested in running for a part-time elected office to get my feet wet in the pond of civic duty while keeping my job.”
Stacey said she would think about the offer, but by the time she decided she wanted to give it a try, the position was filled. A full-time position was open, though, and after discussion and thought, Stacey decided to run for town clerk/tax collector.
Stacey experienced her first bid for an elected seat and due to an error, she was unsure whether she had won on election night. The next day while driving into work, Stacey received a phone call, letting her know she won. After she explained her situation to her boss, Stacey knew she had made the right decision.
“I’d wanted to practice law since I was an itty bitty little girl, but it wasn’t exactly what I thought it’d be,” says Stacey. “As much as I love the law, I missed my daughter so this position felt like a godsend at the time. It’s been one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.”
Every two years, Stacey must be nominated for the position by the Republic Town Committee and win her seat in office.
“I thought I’d do this job for a couple years, but I love it and every day is a new adventure,” says Stacey. “I feel like I’m able to give back in more of a civic duty and I still use the law every day.”
Stacey says she has learned about a wide variety of areas of the law with which she had not previously been familiar. Throughout her day and her different positions, she works with tax law, land records and real estate law, and elections and the laws surrounding voting.
With COVID, Stacey and her team at Town Hall—there are two full-time and one-part employee in both the Town Clerk’s Office and the Tax Collector’s Office—have seen many changes. In addition to preparing Town Hall to meet safety regulations, many things have changed.
At the Town Clerk’s Office, Stacey and her staff saw a massive increase in absentee ballots for the primary and are anticipating tens of thousands for the upcoming election. While the secretary of the state will be mailing absentee ballot applications to all registered voters, Stacey noted they can also be requested through the Town Clerk’s Office.
“There were a lot of disenfranchised voters during primary because of the problems at the Secretary of the State’s Office and I’m working hard to make sure it doesn’t cause an issue for them again,” says Stacey. “We want people to understand all of their options.”
In-person polls will be open in North Haven on Nov. 3. Those choosing to vote by absentee ballot must first fill out and return an application to Town Hall; the applications can be mailed or dropped in the ballot box at any time outside of Town Hall. Once the applications are processed, ballots will be mailed beginning on Oct. 2. Ballots can be returned by mail, in person at the Town Clerk’s Office, or in the ballot box outside of Town Hall.
“My best advice is to vote as soon as possible after you receive your ballot,” says Stacey. “A lot of the votes for the primary came in late and didn’t get counted, so you want to be sure to get those ballots back as soon as possible.”
As the tax collector, Stacey also wants to remind residents that due to COVID, the town granted an extension on the deadline to pay taxes. The deadline to pay taxes without penalty is Oct. 1. Taxes can be paid online through a link on the homepage of the town website www.town.north-haven.ct.us. Taxes can also be mailed, brought to the Tax Collector’s Office, or placed in the dropbox for tax payments at Town Hall.
Even though Stacey’s job keeps her busy, she still makes time to give back to the community. She is a member of the Ulbrich Boys & Girls Club North Haven Unit Parent Advisory Council, as well as the North Haven Republican Town Committee. Stacey is the secretary of the town’s Safety Committee and a member of the Reopening Town Hall Committee, the North Haven Historical Society, and North Haven Friends of the Library. She also maintains her law license.
Stacey also stays busy by keeping up with her children’s activities. She is the vice president of the Clintonville Elementary School PTA and does volunteer work as both the elementary school and the middle school.
“I love being a mommy,” says Stacey. “They’re great kids and we just got to spend two weeks doing staycation outings since we didn’t go away this year because of COVID.”
Even though Stacey has not been able to take part in her usual 20 to 25 5K runs this year because of COVID, she is still an avid runner. She also recently became a teacher for the Connecticut Tax Association.
“I’d always wanted to teach and this job allowed me to do that, which I love,” says Stacey, who is now busy preparing for a busy election season. “I love my job because I get to give back to the community. I feel like I can help people participate in government and give them information they are looking for by helping to explain the government process, where their tax money goes, or where and how to vote.”
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .