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In the fall of 1982, Carlene Koch answered a help wanted advertisement in the Wapakoneta Daily News to serve as clerk for Wapakoneta City Council.
On Monday during the last regular scheduled meeting of 2012, she bid farewell after more than 30 years serving in the position.
“I am going to miss the council members,” Koch said before breaking into a small chuckle, “but I don’t think I am going to miss the two meetings a month to keep the minutes.”
For the past three meetings, Koch has sat in the audience so she could work with new Council Clerk Terry McDonald. Koch would keep notes on McDonald’s performance and go over them with her protégé after the meeting.
Having served for 30 years, Koch can call on many experiences and her knowledge of procedures and Robert’s Rules of Order from the many seminars and classes she has taken through the years.
“I really did enjoy it,” Koch said. “I learned more about it through the Ohio Municipal Clerks Association and the International Institute of Municipal Clerks and I think I brought a little bit of professionalism to the council with what I’ve learned through the schooling.”
She earned a national award, a cherished honor, for her abilities as clerk from the International Institute of Municipal Clerks and served on several committees for the Ohio Municipal Clerks Association.
She also received accolades Monday from friends and elected officials.
Jocele Fahnestock, the retired clerk of council for the city of Sidney and past president of the Ohio Municipal Clerks Association, attended Monday’s meeting to witness Koch receiving a plaque from Mayor Rodney Metz.
She formally addressed council and said she and Koch became friends in 1994 when they traveled together to a conference and meeting at Kent State University. They traveled together each time after that as well — Fahnestock driving and Koch navigating.
“I just wanted to be here and share in Carlene’s last council meeting and to wish her a long and happy retirement and the best for a continued friendship,” Fahnestock said.
Council President Steve Henderson, who served along side Koch for 13 of the past 16 years, said she was instrumental in his success as council president due to her knowledge of the rules and procedures.
“I am honored to have served with her since 1996,” Henderson said. “She was an exceptional clerk. I believe anyone can clerk a meeting, but her knowledge and her willingness to further her education through the Ohio Municipal Clerks Association and to go above and beyond by attending conferences and seminars to get a better grasp definitely showed at the meetings. She knows the answer if you ever have a question and that is what I am going to miss the most.
“Terry (MacDonald) has some big shoes to fill and she is doing well, but she is not going to have 30 years of experience to call on — that will come,” he said. “I am really losing a library of knowledge.”
Mayor Rodney Metz, who started serving Wapakoneta as a councilor a few years after Koch began as clerk, shared glowing remarks about the retiring clerk.
“She was a fantastic clerk and you couldn’t ask for a better clerk,” Metz said. “She is doing a great job training Terry and was there to teach me and keep me straight on the rules and the ordinances.
“She has always, always had excellent records,” the mayor said. “She will be missed and she is a true treasure to the community.”
Others attending Monday’s meeting included her husband, Ken, former Safety-Service Director Rex Katterheinrich, who is now village administrator for the village of New Knoxville, Wapakoneta Police Department dispatcher Stacy Armaly, and former Water Treatment Plant Superintendent Jim Webb.
Webb elicited a laugh when he said, “I liked her, she did a good job and she was always nice to me.”
Koch said one of the most memorable times working for the city was when the city offices moved into the new, more spacious building in 1995. City offices were housed in the Engineering Department building behind the Wapakoneta Fire Department prior to the construction of the Wapakoneta City Administration Building at 701 Parlette Court.
Through her 30 years clerking, she said she remembers the different conflicts over sidewalks being installed including those along West Auglaize Street in 1999 and 2000 which ultimately ended in a lawsuit and referendum on the ballot.
More recently, Councilors-at-large Tom Finkelmeier Jr. and Dan Graf worked on creating a sidewalk policy for the city which failed to pass.
But the most memorable council meeting for Koch centered on burning refuse.
“The council meeting I remember most was when council was considering an incinerator for garbage,” Koch said. “We used to meet in the basement of the Engineering Department building and for a while in a room at the Wigwam, but they had so many people they had to have the meeting in the bays of the firehouse.”
Through those same 30 years, she served with many different mayors, council presidents and councilors in general.
“When I announced I was retiring, I thought back about all of the people who have served on council and they have all been good people,” said Koch, who retired from working in 2006 after serving 16 years as a city’s accounts payable clerk. “The most unusual council I served was when we had four women on council — Ruth, Bonnie, Rachel and Deb. They gave it a different perspective.”
Ruth Carter, the first woman elected to Wapakoneta City Council, was nearing the end of her tenure as 1st Ward councilor, and Bonnie Wurst, who continues to serve on council, was the 3rd Ward councilor. At the time, Rachel Barber served as 4th Ward councilor and Deb Zwez served as a councilor-at-large.
In her retirement, Koch, who enjoys knitting and reading, intends to continue volunteering as a member of the Wapakoneta Noon Optimists and she and her husband plan to do a little bit of traveling.