PEPPERELL -- When Midge Meehan, executive director of the Housing Authority, walked into the housing complex on Foster Street on Wednesday, Nov. 7, she thought she was going in to consult on the installation of a surveillance camera. But Meehan got a little more than she had bargained for.
Upon entering the room, she found herself surrounded by the faces of over two dozen tenants and the board of directors, all gathered to bid her a fond farewell.
Meehan, who has been the executive director for the past 17 years and has worked within the Housing Authority for 30 years, is retiring from her post. Her last day is Nov. 29.
As well as the group of tenants and friends, Susan Edgett, counsel for state Rep. Sheila Harrington, came to present Meehan with a certificate of thanks for her long-term civic work on behalf of Harrington.
Overwhelmed and moved by the gathering of those whom she's been surrounded by for the past three decades, Meehan said that although she's happy to be retiring and spending time with her family, she would miss this group.
"I'll be sad to be leaving a lot of the people I see all of the time," she said. Still, "I've been here 30 years. I'm 66 and it's time to travel. I want to travel while I'm still young enough to move around."
Luckily, said Meehan, her position is being left in the capable hands of Marilyn Tremblay, who has been Meehan's administrative assistant for the past six years.
"She'll be fabulous," said Meehan.
Tremblay said although she is nervous about taking over for Meehan, she is confident in the knowledge she had garnered from her boss's tutelage.
"She's enlightened me," she said. "I am looking forward to continuing to make the positive changes that she's been making."
The Housing Authority will also continue to be run by its board of directors, two of whom have maintained their position since the Housing Authority was founded in 1975; since being founded, the group has been funded by the state.
"We do it because we want to do a service to the town," said Jim Triehy, one of the original board members.
"We started from nothing, and I went to the mail one day and there was a check to build it from the state," said Bob Russell, original board member.
The past three decades has been a whirlwind for Meehan, who in her time as executive director, has experienced both highlights and challenges on the job. In her years there, the Housing Authority has had to handle two electrical fires, one in each of their buildings.
"I don't know what I would have done without the Senior Center. They opened up their building to us until we could find proper housing for our tenants. Our commissioners opened up their homes, too," said Meehan.
One of the main struggles, she said, was budget constraints, and "not being able to give the tenants everything that I wanted to give them," she said.
The challenges were countered by the joys, though, mainly the experiences with all of her tenants, whom she describes as "a group of wonderful people."
"I really grew up here," said Meehan. "It would be so hard for me to describe everything in a few words. I had so many wonderful tenants coming and going."
The tenants will likewise miss Meehan, whom many describe as a friend.
Neena Williams remembers when Meehan first showed her the apartment she has now lived in for 11 years.
"I looked at her and said, 'This is all mine?'" said a smiling Williams. "She is going to be missed -- her personality and how she always tries to understand. She's very kind."
Still, tenants have full confidence in Tremblay taking on the position.
"She'll be perfect for the job," said resident Michael Hammond. "Midge trained her well."
Regardless of who comes and goes throughout the years, said Meehan, the Pepperell Housing Authority will continue on with their mission as usual: "Giving people a happy, safe place to live and be together."