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Longtime township employees retire

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May 12, 2010 - Brandon Twp.-A combined 54 years of experience will be lost to the township this month when two valued employees retire.

Elections/Human Resources Coordinator Karen McArthur, whose career with the township began in 1976, and Mary Kassuba, who has been deputy supervisor since 1987, will have their last day at the township offices on May 21. An open house in honor of their retirement will be held that same day, from 4-6 p.m. at the township offices, 395 Mill St.

"I like everyone here and will miss all of them," said McArthur, who isn't leaving completely as she plans to return to help during elections. "I don't have to go cold turkey (but) not being here everyday will be the hardest part."

Hired as a part-time deputy clerk in 1976, McArthur became the full-time office assistant to Clerk Edna Burton in 1980. Her duties over the years have included paying the bills, doing payroll and handling employee benefits, filing, and everything related to elections.

"I'm constantly dealing with the public— my favorite part of the job," she said. Besides Burton and current Clerk Jeannie McCreery, McArthur also served as assistant to Sally Swayne from 1992-2000. While she said each clerk was a little different, they all shared the same goal— to serve the people.

Kassuba, hired by Supervisor Ed Pierson in 1987, served under four more supervisors— Janet VanTine, elected in 1988; Pat Alexander, supervisor from 1996-2000; and Ron Lapp, township supervisor from 2000 to 2008, when current Supervisor Kathy Thurman was elected.

"They all have their own ideas and ways of doing things," noted Kassuba. "As an employee, you have to adjust whether you agree with their way of doing things or not. Since I have very strong opinions, it can be very challenging to bend to theirs."

Each new supervisor has a learning curve and Kassuba has tried to help them based on her many years of experience. In her job as assistant to the supervisor and assessor, she has had many duties, including helping to prepare the assessment rolls, answering questions about land divisions (the number of land parcels has doubled since she has worked for the township— from 3,000 in 1987 to 6,000 now) and helping people at the counter, many upset.

Kassuba, who is a petite 4 foot, 10-and-a-half inches tall, recalls the 6'4," 300-pound man who yelled at her one day, completely "unglued over his taxes."

Another time, a man brought in a dead cat and placed it on the counter, although she can't remember now why he was angry.

Some people are brought to tears out of pure frustration with their taxes.

"The number of people who have stood at the counter and cried is heartwrenching," Kassuba said.

Still, although the supervisor's office is known as the complaint department, she has met some really wonderful people.

"I like the people I work with and I like the community," said Kassuba. "I like being part of the community and knowing what's going on."

The residents who have come to the clerk counter for assistance have been mostly friendly and easy to please, McArthur said. On the occasions when someone complains, she will talk about all the changes she has seen in the community.

When McArthur first started working for the township, she knew all the residents. Now more people have come and the farms are gone.

Growth in the township has resulted in an increase in the number of registered voters— from 3,000 in McArthur's early working days to 11,000 now. Elections are more work now, not only because of the higher number of voters, but also due to changes in the system. Electronic voting is more efficient for election workers, but has resulted in more pre-election work, including testing of machines.

McArthur describes herself as being "very emotional" over anything election-related.

"I truly love the process of elections— petitions, verifying people, set-up, and everything you do to make the process work," she said.

Her most memorable election was 2008, particularly the August primary.

"We had so many voters we couldn't get set up," she remembers. "We saw no daylight for at least two weeks before the election."

She had 2,000 absentee ballots that year, and the day before the election, 109 residents voted absentee in the clerk's office.

McArthur is proud of the reputation the township has earned regarding their elections.

"It's come from the county that we run a very good election in Brandon Township. It is because of the workers and them treating everyone nicely," she said, then adds, laughing, "Not that I'm partial to elections or anything."

McArthur's plans for retirement include quilting and vacationing with husband Bob, and spending time with their six grandchildren.

Kassuba also has six grandchildren and plans to play with them, as well as work in her yard and visit more with her daughter who lives in South Carolina.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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