By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Paula Doll stopped at a convenience store several years ago to buy scratch-off lottery tickets out of a vending machine.
A thought then occurred to her: If lottery tickets can be sold out of a vending machine, then why not beach tags, too?
Doll, the chief financial officer for Sea Isle City, began looking into things and not too long afterward her idea led to the very first beach tag vending machine at the Jersey Shore in 2016.
Combining a creative side with a flair for numbers, Doll has overseen Sea Isle’s municipal budgets and has also come up with inventive ideas to help promote tourism in the beach town.
But after working for Sea Isle for 16 years, she is preparing to retire from her position as chief financial officer and tax collector.
“My hope in the immediate future is to head for some sunshine and warmth,” she said with a laugh about her retirement plans.
She also plans to spend time with her family. Her last day in City Hall will be Jan. 28.
Doll is the second senior member of Sea Isle’s municipal government to announce their retirement in recent weeks. Police Chief Tom McQuillen, who led the department since 2018, worked his last day on Dec. 22.
Capt. Anthony Garreffi is now serving as “officer in charge” as an interim replacement for McQuillen. Garreffi said he wants to become chief, but the city still must set up a formal selection process to name McQuillen’s successor.
Meanwhile, the city has not yet named Doll’s replacement.
Doll has been working on the proposed 2022 municipal budget, but she will have already retired by the time Mayor Leonard Desiderio formally unveils the spending plan during the Feb. 8 meeting of City Council.
Although Doll has worked for Sea Isle for 16 years, her government career has spanned 31 years. She was formerly the assistant controller and tax collector in Cherry Hill.
While working in Cherry Hill, she saw a job notice that Sea Isle was looking for a new tax collector.
“That was my dream job. The people here are so warm and wonderful,” she said about the opportunity to work in Sea Isle.
She was later promoted to chief financial officer after her predecessor retired in 2010.
Doll wasn’t restricted to handling the city’s finances and supervising the collection of taxes. She was also involved in other responsibilities and projects that involved her self-described “creative streak.”
After her epiphany while buying lottery tickets, Sea Isle became the first town at the Jersey Shore to have a beach tag vending machine. It is located in the lobby on the first floor of City Hall.
“Several other towns have reached out to us about the (beach tag) vending machines and how they could get one,” Doll said.
Each year, Doll was involved with another aspect of Sea Isle’s beach tags – their design. She collaborated with other employees in City Hall to come up with the whimsical and colorful designs that have made Sea Isle’s beach tags a collector’s item year after year.
“It definitely is a process of bouncing ideas off each other,” she said while also giving credit to other employees for the beach tag designs.
In 2021, Mayor Desiderio gave Doll another assignment that tapped her creative side. She collaborated with Desiderio’s assistant, Pattiann Ponichtera, and other city employees to design a series of quirky, Sea Isle-themed signs around town for photo ops.
The signs give visitors plenty of places to snap pictures or shoot video for those “I was there” moments during their treasured summer vacations at the shore.
They also help to showcase the city while also generating some free publicity for Sea Isle when tourists begin posting their photos and video on social media.
But for Doll, the signs, the beach tag vending machine and the beach tag designs were simply part of doing her job – along with handing the city’s finances and tax collections.
“I always felt that I wanted to do my best for the town,” she said.