Osceola County treasurer to retire after 28 years: Sibley's Linda Carter awaits new adventures
SIBLEY -- When Linda Carter ran for Osceola County Treasurer in 1982 postage stamps were only 20 cents, Michael Jackson released his hit single "Thriller" and the San Francisco 49ers were Super Bowl champs. Twenty-eight years later stamps have more than doubled in cost, Jackson tragically died and the 49ers haven't so much as made the playoffs in eight consecutive years.
But through the years one thing has remained the same: Carter in office as treasurer for Osceola County.
Carter first took office in January 1983 and hasn't missed a term since. As a single mom working for an abstract company in the early '80s, the treasurer position seemed like a great opportunity for her. Encouraged by her employer to run for office, Carter started her campaign and eventually won the November general election in 1982.
Since that election, the Osceola County government office has gone through a lot of changes, most of those computer/electronics related.
"When I started, the motor vehicle department was just starting to use computers," said Carter.
Carter recalled doing all the paperwork by hand in the early days of her career. Everything from property tax collection to manual spreadsheets was tediously handwritten. By the 15th of the month, Carter and staff would mail out handwritten checks to every taxing entity.
"I loved doing that, the manual spreadsheets," Carter said. "I tell the girls in my office about that because none of them were here when I first started, and we had to do the spreadsheets by hand."
Acknowledging how the processes in the office have become more tedious over the years, Carter is thankful for the computerized changes.
"It wasn't until '84 or '85 that our accounting went computerized. I can't imagine trying to get that all done by hand nowadays," Carter said.
Another big change came in 2002 when Osceola County started issuing drivers licenses. Prior to 2002, there was a Department of Transportation team that would visit the Sibley courthouse once every two weeks to issue new drivers licenses. When demand increased, the visits increased to weekly, and now the office handles licensing daily on their own.
Alongside changes in the offices and advancing technology, Carter also touched on the economic ups and downs she's experienced during the past 28 years.
"In the '80s when the economy was really hurting, we saw the effects of the bad economy; especially with the farmers," Carter said.
Carter and her co-workers help by working with people who are struggling to pay their property taxes in today's struggling economy. Although the times are tough and the markets hurting, Carter sees residents working extra hard to pay their bills and taxes.
"Our delinquency rates on property taxes over the years have really been pretty consistent and even," she said. "Obviously, that's something property owners see as an important thing. It is a priority people make to pay their taxes."
Like everything else, property taxes have gone up, Carter acknowledged. And even though once in a while they'll drop, they usually just keep climbing back up.
Carter believes the small towns are being affected just as much as the big cities by budget crunches and economy instability.
"We've lost jobs in Sibley and Osceola County just as well as the cities," she said. "We see people coming and going, new people to our community. But we also see people leave. We're no different than a lot of those other areas. We may have less people, but the impact is still there."
The impact of job loss and resident relocation has been an issue Carter has helped fight against as county treasurer. With the help of the Treasurers Association, Carter teams up to take steps in continuing to move forward in order to better serve her residents in offering more services locally.
One of the association's newer accomplishments is the creation of a Web site where residents can pay their property taxes or renew their vehicle registrations online.
"I think especially with the younger people, they expect that online option nowadays," Carter said.
There is a fee involved if using a credit card because as a public entity, the county government cannot use taxpayer dollars to subsidize a convenience that only some people will utilize.
"We've had continuing increases in the Web site usage," Carter said. "Those dollars go straight into the DOT account every day rather than having to wait for checks to be received and cleared like we did in the past."
As Carter has experienced a myriad of changes in her job and procedures in the courthouse, she is ready for change in her personal life and outside the office.
After 28 years as treasurer, she is not seeking another term in office after finishing out the remainder of this term, which ends in December.
"I don't like to think of it as retiring," she said. "It's more like moving on to a new adventure. Yes, I'm retiring from this job, but I hope to do something part time after this."
Carter and her husband will be leaving the chilly Iowa weather and relocating to Texas to be near her two children and five grandkids.
"Our hearts are there. We'll hate leaving here and we'll miss the people here and our friends, but we just want to be near our family," Carter said.
With a big smile on her face, Carter divulged how she can't wait to watch her grandchildren at their cheerleading and gymnastics competitions as well as be supportive at school events.
"We want to be closer; we're missing out on those things."
Aside from being a babysitter and "grandma taxi," Carter hopes to find a part-time job in Texas. She is unsure what exactly that will be, saying she hasn't really explored those possibilities yet.
"It's a real challenge, too, because everywhere people have lost jobs, so finding one could be challenging," she said. "Otherwise, I'm sure I'll be running after grandchildren and delivering them places, trying to help out my children."
Not ruling out another form of county government office work in Texas, Carter plans to finish out her Osceola County term by going through her tasks with the women in her office. Carter said most likely no one in her office will be running for the treasurer position, although it has not been completely ruled out.
Regardless of who takes over Carter's job, the new treasurer will have lots of resources to help them begin their career with Osceola County.
"Not only our staff here in the office, but also the association is really great at helping out new treasurers, even giving them a mentor to help guide them," she said.
Assuring her successor will be in good hands, Carter is looking forward to the big move to the big state and leaving her career as Osceola County treasurer behind.
"I've really enjoyed serving the residents of Osceola County, and I've made a lot of special friends just from people coming into the office," Carter said. "It will be very strange not walking up to the courthouse every day coming to work, walking up those stairs.
"It was very emotional at first, when I first shared with my staff and friends that I was retiring," Carter said. "But now I'm just really looking forward to it."