As 2020 came to a close, Dawn Addison Burnham came to a decision. The woman with a non-retiring personality would retire as the Essex Assistant Town Clerk to spend more time with husband Wesley “Wes” Burnham, who himself ended 2019 by retiring from the Essex Fire Department, after 46 years.
The thing is, retirement for a couple like the Burnhams simply means a shift to other things, most of them in service of the town. They are, like a handful of steeped, local Essex families that go back many generations, always working on town work.
“That’s just how some of those families roll,” said Pamela Thorne, Essex Town Clerk.
Dawn has served as Election Warden for two decades. She has been on the Conservation Commission. She was on the Essex Board of Registrars for 25 years. Dawn was the chairman of the town’s Bicentennial Celebration Committee. She presents the town’s eldest resident with the Boston Post Cane, this year going (again) to 102-year-old Randall Lane. She is on the Essex Cultural Council. She volunteers with the Essex Council on Aging, and is a board member there. She leads “Shave For The Cure” for St. Jude’s Hospital. Last year, Dawn was awarded Volunteer Of The Year by the Selectmen.
“Dawn is a town treasure and who continues to commit herself to work for causes important to her and to the Town,” said Thorne. “She is already dearly missed in the Town Clerk’s office where she knew the answer to almost every question – from Essex History to current issues around town.”
For Wes and Dawn, town work is in the blood. Wesley’s father rose from Captain to Essex Fire Chief over his lifetime.
Dawn’s father, Harold Addison, was a longtime Board of Selectmen and was very active in charity, including St. Jude’s.
By unofficial counts, Wesley is the longest serving Planning Board member in Essex, now in his sixth term. He remains as the Planning Board representative on the Public Safety Building Committee. And Dawn will focus on the COA, including Friday’s holiday meal delivery this week to help locals who are struggling.
For some, retiring means hanging it up. But for Wes and Dawn, just means a change of view. And many in Essex are grateful for it.