Marblehead Select Board appoints two ‘measurers of leather’

Marblehead has appointed two new “measurers of leather” to fill a vacancy left by the retirement of John Smidt, the latest keepers of a quirky, ceremonial tradition dating back centuries.

Newly appointed Marblehead Measurers of Leather Dr. Brian Ruocco (left) and Amy Egelja pose together following their appointment to the ceremonial role by the Select Board on Oct. 25.

The Select Board unanimously approved Amy Egelja and Brian Ruocco to serve as the new honorary leather measurers after their interviews.

The measurer of leather was a local official who verified the dimensions and quality of leather being bought and sold in a town to ensure fair trade and commerce.

Select Board member Jim Nye called it a “difficult decision” between two qualified candidates, while Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer said he felt the dual appointment was a “big win” for the town.

Egelja cited her three decades of experience in the footwear industry and deep Marblehead roots as qualifications. “I’ve always felt a real affinity to the town’s history of footwear and shoe making,” she told the board.

Ruocco took up leathercraft as a hobby after moving to Marblehead, demonstrating his intricate leather bags, canteens and pouches. He is a member of Glover’s Regiment and started crafting with leather by making water canteens.

Brian Ruocco shows a historically accurate leather canteen and other leather creations to the Marblehead Select Board during his interview for town measurer of leather on Oct. 25. Ruocco was appointed to the ceremonial role along with resident Amy Egelja.

“I saw the measurer role was open and thought how neat would that be?” he said in his interview.

Select Board Chair Erin Noonan said the vacancy generated immense buzz, with residents submitting impassioned letters of interest for a purely ceremonial role.

“It’s been sad to see some of the great local footwear brands disappear, but I have a real love for the history,” Egelja added.

Ruocco noted his enthusiasm for old leather regulations, even across municipal lines.

“I’m actually allowed to go into other towns and measure leather,” he told the Select Board to chuckles.

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