Keeper of Medford's addresses Paula Hoffmann. Jim Craven 2/18/2008 - Jim Craven

You can get there from here

In the who-knew-a-job-like-that-existed category, Paula Hoffmann might just take top billing.

The 65-year-old Medford resident spends her days as the keeper of the city's address book, solely responsible for establishing new addresses and keeping track of old ones.

Hoffmann manages an extensive database for Medford that's used by planning and building departments for taxing purposes and for coordinating emergency services.

Hoffmann was assigned the job as a temporary employee in 1997 and appointed permanently two years later.

"The city here was smart enough to realize the importance of having accurate information and to create a position to keep track of addressing and to make sure everything is where it should be," Hoffmann said.

Aside from maintaining records on thousands upon thousands of addresses — residential, commercial and otherwise zoned — Hoffmann works with developers in establishing new street names and ensures numbers are assigned in proper sequence.

"Before I got here they didn't assign suite numbers for business complexes, so we had quite a mixture of things that I spent a few years sorting out," she said.

"All of the addresses and where they're located is keyed into the emergency response database so if there's an emergency, dispatchers can bring up where they live. But if you have numbers out of sequence or a multifloor commercial building but nobody has assigned suite numbers, it's kind of a mess when they get there."

Developers are usually permitted to name new streets — within reason. Names are submitted with development plats, and Hoffmann coordinates the information with emergency services and checks the database for possible duplicates or other issues.

"We check the database to see what we currently have so there are no duplications that could be confusing for the general public," she said.

"Or, if it's not unique, we'll ask the developer what else they would suggest so we get a good set of street names."

Through the years, Hoffmann has learned that property owners tend to be "very attached to their addresses."

Two years ago, when the state rerouted Highway 238, also known as Jacksonville Highway, to follow Rossanley Drive and Hanley Road, the stretch of the old highway between Albertsons Shopping Center and Hanley Road was renamed West Main Street.

"That really caused some issues for all that business out there and it was a nightmare to work out," she recalled.

As for changing names or numbers, the process is neither taken lightly nor as simple as it may seem — whether requested by property owners or the city.

"We always try really hard to walk people through the progress and try to talk to them. We really prefer not to dictate," said Hoffmann.

Certain numbers, such as 911 (emergency services) and 666 (considered the number of the anti-Christ) are avoided, and "there are apartment buildings with no apartment number 13," often considered a bad-luck number, Hoffmann said.

"We had one of the new churches built and the developer said to me, 'Now don't you give us a number like 666!' " she said.

Some homeowners want their streets renamed to honor a specific person or to mirror a street they lived on as a child, changes that are tough to make and usually require City Council action, she said.

Hoffmann's experience before coming to Medford included a host of temporary assignments, such as a stint working in "building and safety" aboard the historic HMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, Calif.

Her task as address manager for Medford isn't a job she ever pictured herself doing, but it's one she usually enjoys.

"It's different than anything I've ever done and it's a type of job I think takes a certain kind of mind," she said.

"I'm really organized and detail-oriented. I balance a checkbook to the penny and if it doesn't balance, boy, I'm going to find that penny! But I guess it's a good fit for this job and it's good to provide accuracy for the city."

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