Hopf to miss the people most in retirementDecember 27, 2018
By CANDY NEAL
Kathy Hopf pursued public office after being encouraged by her brother.
She and her brother, the late John Burger, were the only two in their family to hold public office.
“It was a lot of John’s enthusiasm for it that got me interested,” Hopf said. “Until he got involved in it, I was like a lot of people, and didn’t know a lot about county government. But he was pretty passionate about it. I learned a lot from him.”
Hopf, who served as county clerk for eight years and county auditor for another eight, is retiring at the end of the year.
Burger served 10 years as a county councilman and eight years as a county commissioner. And after his public career had ended, he was still politically active and aware until he became ill. He died in June.
“Although he wasn’t directly involved in politics anymore,” Hopf recalled, “he still followed everything that happened at the county level up until he wasn’t able to do anything anymore.”
Burger was a councilman running for commissioner when the county clerk position was up for election in 2002. At the time, Hopf was working at the Heart Group. In the years prior to that, she had worked at Kimball International, became a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, and worked part time at Precious Blood School.
“John talked to me, and asked if I ever considered running for an office. He thought I would really like the clerk’s office,” Hopf said. “I hadn’t ever thought about it. So I did a little research on what the clerk’s office actually was responsible for. And then I decided to give it a try. I was ready for a change.”
Hopf won the seat and took office Jan. 1, 2003. She held the seat for eight years, which is the limit a person can hold the position. She ran for and won the auditor position in 2010, and took office Jan. 1, 2011. Like the clerk position, term limits dictate that she could hold the position for only eight years.
“And now I’m going to Division Road, Jan. 1, 2019,” Hopf, 64, said with a laugh. “I didn’t want to run for office anymore. I felt the time was right for me to retire. It’s time to let someone new and younger take over.”
Sandy Morton, a longtime deputy in the auditor’s office, will take over the position Jan. 1.
During her time as county clerk, the courts’ case management system software was updated, which Hopf said was really needed, and the statewide voter registration system was created. But the biggest change came at the beginning of her first term: changing from lever voting machines to electronic voting machines.
“We did a demo in the 2003 city election with the electronic equipment, and then we purchased it after that,” Hopf said. “So we didn’t actually use the lever machines when I was clerk.”
Although she didn’t site a specific highlight for the auditor’s office, Hopf said she was always amazed at the variety of calls that came to the office, many of them having nothing to do with the office itself.
“We get calls about everything,” Hopf said. “We got a call recently from a woman that needed a place to stay and an agency sent her to us to get a township trustee’s number.”
The staff do their best to find an answer for the caller. “Sometimes we know the answer. We don’t always,” she said. “Sometimes we can’t do anything about it. But we try to steer people in the right direction. At least we have suggestions.”
Being located directly across from the Dubois County Courthouse’s main door, the auditor’s office is the first place people stop if they don’t know where to go in the courthouse. “They refer to us as the hub of the courthouse, and I guess it is,” Hopf said. “This is where people go to when they need to know what to do, either in the public or within county government. We’re happy to help, if we can find the answer.”
The interaction with people is what Hopf likes most. “I’ve always enjoyed being involved in people-related activities,” she said. “I find people very interesting. People are so fascinating.”
The most challenging part of her job has been keeping up with employment law and human resources duties, which fall to her office.
“Running an election was challenging too,” she said. “But for me, it has not been as challenging as all the HR aspects of this job. But I’ve learned a lot, and it’s been very rewarding and educational. I didn’t dislike it, but it was challenging.”
In retirement, Hopf plans to spend more time with her family: husband Gary; adult children Rachel Ponton of Elmhurst, Illinois, Andrea Hartings of Jasper, and Nick Hopf of Atlanta; and eight grandchildren. She is also looking forward to spending more time with her mother, Anna Mae Burger, who lives in Jasper.
But she knows there are different aspects of public service that she will miss.
“I will miss the people, definitely,” she said. “The people here do a really good job. They work hard. They’re very conscientious and caring. I’ve made a lot of really good friendships that I would not have made otherwise.”
She will miss the public as well. “But I will still see the public,” Hopf said. “I don’t have firm plans yet, but I definitely will get involved in some volunteer activities. So it’s not like I won’t be out to see people in the public.”
And she will miss the daily flurry of activity that greeted her when she came to work.
“I will miss the hustle and bustle,” Hopf said. “Both offices were always busy. I’ll miss that fast pace.”
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