The dust of the November 2018 elections has long settled and all but one of the newly elected county officials have been at their jobs for the past two months.
All but one, that is.
Despite her replacement being sworn in at the beginning of the year, longtime Franklin County Collector Linda Emmons will finally turn off her calculator for good Thursday after five elected terms. She did not seek re-election.
Due to state statute and the fiscal responsibilities of the county collector to wrap up the previous year’s taxes, county collectors terms do not begin until March of the year following an election cycle even if they did not run for, or won re-election.
On Tuesday, Emmons, the 32-year veteran of the office, was honored by the Franklin County Commission for her three decades of service to the residents of the county.
“I never believed life could go by so fast and I really wish I would have written more things down so I could remember,” she said. “This is the best job I’ve ever had and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
Emmons says there are aspects of the actual work she will miss, but it is mostly the people.
“I think there’s something about being needed,” she said. “I’m not really sure what I’ll do next. I don’t know what it’s like to sit and do nothing.”
Leaving a job you love and position you have fought to retain every four years can be tough, but Emmons feels the office will be in good hands with her replacement, who can continue to build on the two-decade foundation she and the staff has laid.
Her replacement, Doug Trentmann, has served as her chief deputy and has learned the ropes from Emmons.
“Doug knows the job inside and out,” she said. “It’s good to know someone like him is taking the reins. I hope Doug calls and says he needs something.”
There are two things certain in life. Death and taxes.
Emmons says the best part of her job over the years has been interacting with the public as they visit the office.
“Sometimes they came in happy and other times not so much,” she said. “I used to be a very shy person and this job has helped me come out of it. I don’t think I would have done anything different.”
As with any workplace, there are changes that take place over the course of time and the collector’s office was no different.
“When I first came in, we only had one computer,” Emmons said. “But, since I’ve come in we’ve only added one staff member in 20 years, so I’ve done my part to keep payroll at a minimum.”
Emmons first joined the collector’s office in 1986 as a part-time clerk mailing out pink tax bills to county residents.
She explained she originally worked for the assessor’s office, personal property office and the collector all at the same time just to stay employed.
She was laid off for one day and then called back the following day and has been with the county ever since.
Although she worked her way through the ranks, she never dreamed she would ever run for office, much less be the collector for 20 years.
“I started at the bottom and learned every job in the office,” she said. “In 1997, I kind of got the notion I might want to run. Then my boss decided she wasn’t going to run and gave me her blessing. It was four years earlier than I had planned.”
After battling tough primary and general election opponents, Emmons won her first elected office.
“It was a grassroots campaign,” she said. “We went to every breakfast and dinner all over the county. People were probably sick and tired of seeing me. The only bad thing about this job was the campaigning.”
In the weeks since the November election, much has been made about the number of women elected to offices across the country.
In Franklin County, women currently hold about half of the county’s elected offices and that has been the trend for many years.
“I never dreamed I would be in this position for this long,” Emmons said. “Don’t ever sell yourself short. I believe God helped me get here.”
The retirement of Emmons and former County Clerk Debbie Door mark the political career ends of those trailblazing female county politicians.
Add to that the retirements of Prosecuting Attorney Bob Parks and Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer last summer, Franklin County has lost about 70 years of combined experience in county government going into 2019.
Remaining female county officeholders include Public Administrator Mary Jo Straatmann; Auditor Tammy Vemmer; Treasurer Debbie Aholt; and Recorder of Deeds Jennifer Metcalf.
Emmons and her husband of 50 years, Rodney, recently moved to Washington after living in Union for 45 years.
They have one son, Rodney Steven Emmons, and three grandchildren, Bailey, 16, Krista, 14, and Tyler, 9.