Faigrove Township clerk retires after 36 years of service

Karen Goodchild, 71, reads one of the last documents she will ever examine. Goodchild retired from her position as Fairgrove Township Clerk effective after swearing in her replacement Katie Gebhardt at 8:30 a.m. Friday who won the general election Nov. 8. (Photo by John Cook).
Karen Goodchild, 71, reviews records in the Fairgove Township offices. Goodchild retired from her position as Fairgrove Township Clerk effective after swearing in her replacement Katie Gebhardt at 8:30 a.m. Friday who won the general election Nov. 8. (Photo by John Cook).

In 1980, U.S. citizens elected Ronald Reagan President – and residents of Fairgrove Township elected Karen Goodchild as clerk.
By comparison, Reagan served from 1981 to 1989 — 28 years less than Goodchild, 71, who decided not to seek reelection this time around.
That means for the first time in 36 years, a new clerk was sworn in as Fairgrove Township clerk Friday.
“It took me a while to decide that I was going to, but I’m ready for a younger person to take over,” said Goodchild.
Katie Gebhardt is the township’s new clerk, having beat out Democrat Sarah R. Donovan in the November general election.
In a Oct. 17 meeting, the Fairgrove Township board approved paying Goodchild $25 an hour to train Gebhardt.
Goodchild said she wanted to retire because she felt it was time.
She said her age also played a role — had she ran again, she would have been 75 years old when her term would expire in 2020.
“And I might want to do something different,” she added. “I don’t know what I’m going to do but I’ll find something; I won’t just sit around.”
Goodchild is a member of the Fairgrove Presbyterian Church, 5040 Maple St., Fairgrove, playing piano and participating in the women’s group at the church. She also has seven grandchildren she would like to see more now that she will have free time.
Goodchild said she started out as an election worker for the presidential primary in 1980, only to run for clerk a few months later, beginning the start of her career in politics.
As a farmer’s wife, Goodchild said she wanted to be a help at home for her husband, Fred Goodchild.
At the time former Fairgrove Township Clerk Herman Hadaway was in office but also aging, Goodchild said.
“So Mr. Hadaway put an ad in the paper (for clerk) and he said anyone interested in it to give him a call,” added Goodchild.
Goodchild decided the other part of her retirement was the change in technology, which came along faster than she can keep up.
Changes in election technology that started out with mechanical lever machines, or a rectangular array of levers designated to each candidate or issue. According to votingmachines.procon.org these were popular in the 1960s to 1980s and phased out by 2010.
Optical scanning — where voters handmark their ballots and a machine counts the votes — started becoming the popular voting option for the 2012 election.
She recalled the lever machines only allowed two voters at once, causing a large lineups in Fairgrove Township Library basement where polling stations were once located. Optical scanning and multiple stations caused lines to move right along, she said.
After nine general elections in her 36-year career, Goodchild said every election usually works out the same.
“An election’s an election,” said Goodchild. “If you don’t have any big hullabaloo or excitement, an election is just an election. We see the people come, we see the people go, they stop and visit with you (and) very seldom you see people grumbling.”
This past election was no exception for Goodchild. Keith Aeder, Fairgrove Township Supervisor, worked with Goodchild for 32 years of her career.
For Aeder, Goodchild was a clerk who kept things in order, reminding its members of due dates, extracurricular board meetings and never caused issues during election season because of her dedication to keep things organized, he said.
Aeder said he remembers significant changes in the township since the two worked together.
“The biggest visible thing is we have are wind turbines now,” said Aeder.
In addition to turbines, population change has had dramatic effect.
In 2000, Fairgrove Township’s population was 1,749 According to the U.S. Census Bureau 2000 report. In 2010, the township population decreased to 1,549 according to American Fact Finder, a part of the U.S. Census Bureau.
“I think pretty much like everyone else, like the entire state, we never did have much industry but I guess over the last 30 years since the automobile industry went down in Saginaw there just weren’t a lot of opportunity in this area and they moved,” Aeder continued. “Our kids moved away — I don’t know who’s gonna reverse that. Karen’s kids are a good example of that — they all moved away.”
But when it comes to losing Goodchild, Aeder said the former clerk has been wonderful during her tenure.
“She has been an absolute joy to work with,” Aeder said, “She has been so dedicated to this township and to us as board members, every board needs someone who is very organized and just makes sure things get done when they’re supposed to get done and that was Karen.
“Just very conscientious and did a very good job. I have all the confidence in the world in Katie, who’s going to be taking over … but she has big shoes to fill.”
Kay Eurich, resident of Fairgrove, has been a close friend of Goodchild for some time and worked along with her for nearly 20 years as an election officer. She described her working relationship with Goodchild as “efficient, effective and very nice to work for.”
General election years tend to be a challenge, Eurich added, because some residents come in ready to vote that are in the wrong precinct or not registered completely. She said this general election was especially challenging.
Despite the pressures of Election Day, Eurich said Goodchild made the process easier.
“She goes the extra mile for election workers,” Eurich said, which included getting food when needed, having election-related supplies available and having everything prepared ahead of time on Election Day.
“I just wish her the best — we’re gonna miss her.”
Fairgrove Township Trustee Michael Day said he worked with Goodchild for the past 12 years as trustee and said Goodchild’s excellent record is because of her nurturing behavior.
“Fairgrove Township seems to be one big family,” said Day. “It’s like she’s the mother hen. It feels like you’re dealing with a very personable family member.”
Day knew Goodchild from childhood and saw her as a mother and wife as he attended Akron-Fairgrove Public School District, sometimes making it hard to see her as the township clerk many residents know and see today. Day estimated Goodchild positively affected thousands of people while occupying the clerk’s position stating no one had ever said anything negative about her.
Now watching Goodchild leave the nest, Day felt her leaving is bittersweet.
“She’s been there 36 years and she’s probably getting tired of it,” Day added. “I sound selfish because I don’t want to see her go, but she probably wants to do other things. I hope she enjoys her retirement.”
The Fairgrove Township Board is honoring Goodchild with a retirement open house on Monday, Nov. 21, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Fairgrove Township Hall. The public is invited to attend.
Debanina Seaton is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at debanina@tcadvertiser.com

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