Oberdahlhoff describes pleasant surprises, frustrations in new role as county clerk
By Ethan Colbert
A spokesperson for Missouri Governor Mike Parson confirmed last week that Susie Oberdahlhoff, of rural Bowling Green, had been appointed as Pike County Clerk.
Oberdahlhoff had previously served as the interim County Clerk following the resignation of Michelle “Missy” Hunter-Jaeger, who announced after winning the November General Election that she would not be accepting the position and would not be sworn into office.
On Friday, Oberdahlhoff spoke with the Times about the transition from private citizen to public official.
“I was excited to get the appointment,” Oberdahlhoff said. “I had kind of got into this job over the month that I was interim, but I had to keep saying that it was not permanent and that there may be somebody different walking into this position. It was really difficult for me to make any decisions about this job because at that point I was just temporary.”
Oberdahlhoff was one of several Pike Countians who interviewed with the Pike County Republican Central Committee and the Pike County Democratic Central Committee.
Both local central committees were able to make a recommendation to the Governor as to the person they believe was best suited for the position.
Oberdahlhoff, a Republican, did not receive the Republican Central Committee’s recommendation but she said in her interview that she is committed to working for all Pike Countians.
“I am here to serve all people, regardless of political party,” Oberdalhoff said. She later added that she was grateful for the month where she served as an interim county clerk because it gave her a better understanding of what the county clerk’s office is responsible for within county government.
“I think the biggest surprise is just how much transpires in this office,” Oberdahlhoff said. “There are so many things that this office takes care of, is responsible for, and I think that is the most overwhelming thing. I knew about elections, I knew about budgeting, but I had no idea about all of the rest.”
According to Oberdahlhoff, some of the lesser-known job duties include serving as a trustee for various cemetery associations that are located in rural parts of the county, issuing liquor licenses and auctioneer’s licenses, and the process of removing a voter from the voter database.
“The first time I got on the website and looked at the responsibilities of the county clerk’s office, I was just surprised by it all,” Oberdahlhoff said. “There was voter registration, including handling all of the records for when people pass away and insuring that all of the correct documents have come in so that we can remove them from the rolls.”
Amid all these new duties, Oberdahlhoff said the hardest part of the transition has been learning all of the technology involved in the office.
“I am just not from an era of computers and there are so many computer programs involved in this office,” Oberdahlhoff said. “If there has been a frustrating time, it has been with dealing with this computer.”
The new county clerk said she hasn’t had time to really dwell on any item or job duty for too long, because of the variety of jobs that the office handles.
“I feel like I haven’t looked up from my desk because of all of the work,” Oberdahlhoff said. “The staff here has been wonderful. The relaxing feeling is that they are both continuing on with their responsibilities.”
In addition to Oberdalhoff, the county clerk’s office is staffed by deputy clerks Laura Stumbaugh and Barbara Luckett.
Another reason that the county clerk has not had time to dwell on any item or job for too long is because she said she is busy preparing for an upcoming election in April.
“There are probably many people, with the exception of those who are running, who do not realize that there is an election in April,” Oberdahlhoff said. “We realize there is one and we are already proofing the ballots because absentee voting is going to start soon.”
Absentee voting will begin in March, according to the Missouri Secretary of State’s website.
Due to the impending election, Oberdahlhoff said she has enjoyed getting a better understanding of the science behind how the ballots are structured and laid out.
“I think a lot of people just think that there is no reason behind how they are laid out, but there is,” Oberdalhoff said. In addition to laying out the ballot, Oberdahlhoff said she has also learned how to calculate the number of ballot versions that are needed for an election.
“You have to have so many different ballots because nearly each polling place is going to get a different ballot,” Oberdalhoff said. The April election will feature local municipal elections, school board elections, a property tax issue in Frankford, a debt service levy tax issue in the Bowling Green R-I School District, and the election of the 911 Board of Directors for the newly formed centralized 911 dispatch.
Once Oberdahlhoff gets through the April election, she says she hopes she will be able to begin to implement her vision for the office, which includes a fresh coat of paint and reaching out to civic organizations and schools for possible programs.
“I would love to go to the schools and talk to them about what our office does,” Oberdahlhoff said. “Government, and understanding government, is important to me and I want to make sure others understand what this office does.”
While she is looking down the road, Oberdahlhoff says she is stopping short of looking to 2020, when she will have to decide to either file for election or to only serve the current two-year term.
“A lot of people have asked me that,” Oberdahlhoff said in response to being asked if she was going to run for election. “And to be honest, I don’t know. It has just been a month. I know that people are wanting stability after the turmoil that did transpire with everything. They would like to have stability and I am not going to make promises.”
She added later, “It doesn’t have anything to do with what is happening in this office, but a lot of it will have to do with my age and my family situation.”
In the meantime, Oberdahlhoff echoed her comments from earlier in the interview.
“I’m here to serve all Pike Countians,” Oberdahlhoff said. “I want to serve people. I want to help the people that come in here and whether that means that I can help them directly or if I need to send them to another office, I want people to know that they can always come here and ask questions and we will do our best to answer.”