Reminder Assistant Editor
EAST LONGMEADOW The stereotypical 84-year-old is retired, puttering around the house and watching "The Price is Right" everyday, despite the fact that the charming Bob Barker has retired. The octogenarian may spend free time with grandchildren or working on a quiet hobby like stamp collecting or building models.
Ken Goddard isn't the stereotypical 84-year-old, however.
The insurance agent, who still works three days a week with the Haberman Group which he joined in 1978 wrapped up his 34th year with East Longmeadow's Board of Assessors after Martin Grudgen was elected to the board on April 8.
"Ken is a World War II veteran and because he's from that era, he has a very strong work ethic," Board of Assessors member Christine Saulnier said. She first met Goddard while working as a senior clerk for the board in the 1970s.
Goddard said he and his wife, both originally of Needham, Mass., moved to the town in 1954. He was chosen to run a local office for the Fireman's Fund Insurance Company and said he picked East Longmeadow because it was a nice little town for his family, which began with two sons and included an addition of a daughter 12 years later.
"I was with the [Fireman's Fund Insurance] company for 15 years," Goddard said. "With a corporation like that, though, you go where they say. My family wanted to stay here ... Looking back, though, it was a hell of a good job."
Goddard began his career of town service with the Meadow Brook School Building Committee, on which he served as vice-chair.
He said the insurance company sent its agents to appraisal schools and that his father was a contractor, which gave him a knowledge of construction. This experience, he explained, led to his work with the Meadow Brook committee and eventually with the Board of Assessors.
"Ray [Jones, a fellow member of the Meadow Brook committee and member of the Board of Assessors] said, 'Why don't you run for the board?'" Goddard said. He added he still remembers his wife and daughter going door to door to help him with that first campaign.
He was elected to the Board of Assessors in February 1972.
Goddard saw many changes occur in town during his more than three decades of work. In 1980, valuation of properties started to be recorded with computers, which Goddard noted "made it a challenge."
"He has substantial computer abilities," current Board of Assessors Chair Bill Johnston said. "He was instrumental in helping with that."
Johnston, who joined the board in 1989, said he saw Goddard and former assessor Fred Stevens as mentors.
"I'll miss his one-on-one negotiations with the bigger businesses and properties," Johnston stated. "We had a top talent for that in Ken. He had a unique strength and was always good at evaluating situations with town hall bureaucracy."
Goddard said those negotiations were some of his favorite things as an assessor.
"He has a great deal of common sense and in all his decisions he thought about what was best for the taxpayers and what was best for the town," Saulnier noted.
She said she'll miss his experience, his knowledge of the town and his common sense approach to every situation.
Why retire after such a lengthy and productive career?
"The reason I wanted to stay on was to do something for the town with something I knew about," Goddard explained. "The job wasn't that difficult when I started. There were less parcels and I really enjoyed appraisal work. After a couple terms I realized I could handle it easily.
"I left because I'm 84," he laughed. "Thirty-four years is enough. I won't miss the demands. Instead of 2,000, 3,000 properties there are 8,000 now and they're always growing. The excise tax is much larger because of a lot more vehicles. It was interesting, though."
Johnston said Goddard served on "all kinds of committees over a long period of time" and that he was "a very active part of town leadership."
"We never had a contested election for the Board of Assessors," Johnston noted. "Ken's prestige and fine performance were a part of that."
"He has been a real asset to the town," Saulnier added.
While his tenure with the board has now ended, Goddard doesn't plan on slowing down quite yet. He enjoys riding his bike, hiking and being outdoors. He is also an active leader at the First Congregational Church.
"I'll work until I can't work anymore," he said.