Boy, she deserves a break

It was 25-ish years ago when a younger me sat mystified at a county commissioner meeting, hardly understanding the language they spoke or the issues they were tackling.

Wise Commissioner Bob Wolfe recognized my stupidity and gently nudged me as they prepared to convene as the Board of Equalization.

“See that lady in the back of the room?” he said, pointing toward a woman in a cream colored sweater who was carrying a big stack of papers. “She knows everything there is to know about county business. After the meeting, catch her by the elevator and introduce yourself. Then ask if you can come visit her. She will teach you everything you need to know about York County.”

When they convened as the equalization board (which, by the way, I didn’t understand whatsoever at the time), the lady in the cream colored sweater came forward with her pile of papers and addressed the commissioners. It turned out her name was Ann Charlton and she was the county assessor.

Bob winked at me as she spoke, because her knowledge instantly oozed out of her, proving that he knew what he was talking about.

She talked about tax roll corrections and advised the group they would soon be taking on valuation protests. The lady in the cream colored sweater slightly scolded them for not telling her about all the new grain bins that gone up in the rural areas and she mentioned something about having to go before a group of people in Lincoln called TERC. I didn’t understand it but it all sounded pretty serious.

This Ann person ended her presentation with a joke and a chuckle.

Bob nudged me again, urging me to chase her down. But I was too intimidated and said I’d catch up with her later.

“Don’t waste the opportunity,” Bob warned. “You’ll never meet another one like her.”

Eventually I got up the courage to enter that assessor office and she warmly welcomed me into her office. What an office it was. Her desks were covered with papers, there were complicated maps all over. Ann was wearing blue that day and had a pencil stuck behind her ear.

She probably knew I was ignorant but she treated me so kindly as we dove into the ins and outs of her complicated business. I knew right away that Bob was right – this woman was a fountain of knowledge. Sure, she was the assessor but she had also worked for many years in the treasurer’s office; she was married to the county’s highway superintendent; and it was apparent she was the Queen Bee of the courthouse.

And did I mention she was so funny? As my visits continued, I appreciated her wonderful sense of humor that she somehow maintained while working at such a hard job. It’s not easy being a county assessor, I observed – with people upset from time to time and having to be the person assigned to find the “secret” machine sheds and pivots in the far corners of the county.

Ann also had the incredible ability to explain terminology and concepts in a way that even the dumbest of young reporters could understand. I certainly have gratitude for that.

For many decades, I’ve had the pleasure of being able to ask her anything, tell her anything. I guess that sage, wise assessor and I became great friends.

Yesterday, I went to her office for what I guess will be the last time. Her desk was actually pretty clean, a lot of the papers were removed, her memorabilia wasn’t there.

Even though I don’t like it, apparently Ann has decided to retire. She says 52 years is long enough and she wants to take a break. The selfish me wants her to stick around to maintain my stream of knowledge, but the kinder me heard relief in her voice when she said, “It’s time to relax.”

Yes, Ann, it’s time to relax. A county commissioner said this week that Ann has served the county for one third of its 150-year history! When it’s put into that perspective, it’s actually kind of mind blowing.

York County has had the benefit of Ann’s service for decades and now it’s her time.

Congratulations, Ann, on your retirement and thank you for everything. Words can’t express how much I appreciate everything you’ve done for me over the years. And I think I can speak for county residents when I say we appreciate all your hard work, dedication and determination to treat everyone equally.

And with that said, I’m sure we can all agree — boy, you deserve a break.

 

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