Person of the Week
Tracey Celentano: Making Sense of Dollars and Cents
Clinton resident and Westbrook Deputy Treasurer Tracey Celentano is celebrating her first year as finance director of Essex. (Photo by Rita Christopher/Harbor News)
Tracey Celentano is celebrating an anniversary, a double anniversary, actually: her first year as finance director of Essex and the completion of her first budget cycle with the annual town budget meeting.
Now the Clinton resident is going to do a tiny bit of celebrating. She is going to Charleston, South Carolina to visit her son, named Joseph as is her husband, but called JJ. He is currently a graduate student in Latin American history at the College of Charleston. It will be short but nonetheless a special visit.
“I haven’t been there yet because of COVID,” Tracey says.
As finance director, Tracey’s focus is on the budget, the annual audit and the financial information town departments need to function. In addition, she is part of a team completing grant applications for town projects.
When not on the job at Essex Town Hall, Tracey volunteers at Forgotten Felines of Connecticut, a cat shelter and adoption facility in Westbrook. Her reason for volunteering has as much to do with people as with cats. Her late mother always wanted to volunteer there but never had a chance to do it.
Tracey is also a member of the Finance Committee of the Valley-Shore YMCA and is deputy treasurer of the town of Westbrook. At the time she took the treasurer position, she lived in Westbrook. Though she has since moved to Clinton, she explains there is no requirement as deputy treasurer that she live in Westbrook. Her job consists mainly of signing checks and making deposits when the Town Treasurer Jane Butterworth isn’t available.
Currently the Town of Essex is applying for a Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant and a Connectivity Sidewalk grant to extend paved sidewalks within the town. The sidewalk grant has already paid for sidewalks along Route 154 from the junction of Route 153 by Cumberland Farms to the Valley Railroad.
“People love to walk, to walk their dogs; they like the sidewalks,” Tracey says.
Before coming to Essex as finance director, Tracey worked for more than a decade for Vista Life Innovations in Madison as vice president of finance and operations and later as a consultant. Vista assists young adults with neurological disabilities cope with present challenges and chart a course toward self-sufficient living
Tracey had a wide range of responsibilities including finance, human resources, and regulatory compliance.
Earlier in her career, Tracey had worked for 11 years at Mystic Seaport as finance manager, assistant controller, and accounting manager for auxiliary operations. A change in the computer systems that she oversaw at the Seaport made Tracey realize she wanted more expertise in the field.
“I decided that was it. I was going to learn more about this,” she says.
She went back to school, to Quinnipiac University for a master’s degree in computer information systems.
Tracey hadn’t intended to major in finance at Gettysburg College. She had planned a biology major, but discovered that biology at Gettysburg at that time heavily pre-med focused. She was more interested in ecology and the outdoors.
Tracey was taking science classes as well as accounting her sophomore year when her organic chemistry teacher announced that the final would cover the entire year’s work, despite an earlier final at the end of the first semester.
“I ran to the registrar and dropped it,” she says.
Instead, Tracey declared a major in management and accounting.
“Numbers always came easily to me,” she says. “All my jobs have always been about numbers. I’ve done budgeting forever.”
Tracey’s father, Al Clark, was a science teacher at John Winthrop Middle School. After he retired, he became a lobsterman. It was a family operation. Tracey was his assistant and his boat was named the Tracey B, after her and her mother Barbara, even though Barbara didn’t go out in it.
“My mother refused to get on that boat,” Tracey recalls.
Her father pulled up the lobster pots and Tracey measured the lobsters to see if they were big enough to keep or needed to be thrown back, then she put rubber bands around their claws. That sounds risky, but Tracey says the claws never got her.
Tracey and her father were among the first suppliers of Lobster Landing in Clinton.
Tracey is walker, always with a companion or two: her English springer spaniel, Magnolia and her beagle, Rufus. Magnolia, she says, loves a vigorous hike, but Rufus prefers a walk. Tracey likes to take him along Seaside Avenue in Westbrook.
Tracey has gone to work at Essex Town Hall, as have all other employees in the building, throughout this year which, for many people, has meant working from home.
“I love it here. I love the people,” she says. “I want to work here forever.”