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Longest continuously serving county employee plans retirement

Okanogan County Clerk Charleen Groomes will retire at the end of the year with memories, friendships and the title of the longest continuously serving employee in Okanogan County government.

“It’s really going to be weird not working,” she said. “I’m going to miss everybody.”

Groomes, 61, was first elected to the clerk position in 2012, and has severed in that role ever since.

The role of a county clerk is to oversee all the legal documents filed in Superior Court. These filings range from felonies to juvenile delinquency and paternity cases to adoptions.

She began her career under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) program with the county on Feb. 4, 1980, working a variety of positions, often wherever the county needed an extra hand - from roads department to the assessor’s office to the commissioners’ office — before her first stint in the clerk’s office.

“I was here (clerk’s office) for 10 years and went to the auditor’s office for licensing in 1990,” Groomes recalled, noting she then spent eight months working in the treasurer’s office.

“Basically, I was in the auditor’s office for about 20 years.”

“I told (clerk) Jackie (Bradley) that whenever she was ready to retire, I wanted to run for clerk,” Groomes said. “I really loved the job. I liked what I was doing.”

Groomes said one of the biggest transitions she’s seen while in office has been the transition to a paperless system, which has made filings much more efficient.

When starting as the clerk, Groomes said filings were “probably two weeks behind.”

“Now, everything’s caught up,” she said. “Now we have a 24-48-hour turnaround.”

In her early days as county clerk, she recalled coming in to work at 7 a.m. and often times working until 10 p.m. to get things caught up.

Having worked continuously since she was 14, Groomes said retirement will be an adjustment. She’s looking forward to doing projects around the house, planting flowers and having a big garden.

“I’m not much of a yard person, but I’m going to become a yard person,” she laughed. “We’ll do some traveling. We like to just get away.”

With 19 grandchildren between Groomes and her significant other, Glen Lisenbey, expects to spend a lot of time at rodeos, sporting events and as a “fill-in” babysitter.

Aside from working, Groomes has been an important volunteer in the community, too.

She was elected to president of the Okanogan Kiwanis club, president of the woman’s auxiliary of the Okanogan Eagles and exalted ruler of the Omak Elks Lodge – all in the same year she was elected clerk.

In 2011, the Okanogan Chamber of Commerce named her citizen of the year.

“There for a while I was thinking maybe I would do one more term,” she said. “But I figure after

three or four terms, it’s time to turn it over to someone else.”

The county’s chief deputy clerk, Susan Speiker, is running unopposed for county clerk.

“I have full confidence in Susan,” Groomes said, noting Speiker has worked for the clerk’s office for seven years. “She has been a great asset to this office. I was the only elected official without a chief deputy for my first five years.”

In all, Groomes has been an employee of Okanogan County for 42 years.



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