ASHLAND — A longtime county government worker — who for the last three years served on the Ashland County Board of Elections — retired for good Thursday after more than 40 years in various roles.
Barb Queer, 62, started working as a senior in the office of Ashland City Schools. A few months later, she landed a job as switchboard operator for the county building in 1977.
She worked her way up to a position in administration, as the county’s business administrator in 1996. She held that job before being elected as a county commissioner in 2008.
By the time her second term as commissioner expired in January 2017, she had reached 40 years in public service.
All the while, Queer served in the community on various boards and causes.
Her colleagues on the board of elections celebrated her service Thursday with cake, refreshments and one fellow board member gave her a wrapped gift.
“Barb has been a friend and mentor for me,” said Andrew Keller, the board’s current chairman. “She has such a rich and varied experience with county government. She was a perfect fit for the board.”
Keller said the board didn’t just get another board of elections board member in 2018 when she was elected. He noted her experience in government work as “invaluable.”
Keller said Queer was integral in guiding the board of elections through 2020’s uncertainty, especially during the March 2020 primaries. The primaries, originally scheduled for March 17, were postponed at the last minute amid concerns from state officials surrounding the coronavirus.
“(Queer) provided leadership and excellent communication skills in working with staff and volunteers around the county in navigating orders and directives last year,” Keller said.
When the primaries ultimately happened April 28, Keller said Queer was instrumental in ensuring the precincts were as safe and clean as possible.
Keller said she also offered invaluable guidance in finding a new director and deputy director of the county’s board of elections when former deputy director Kathy Howman retired at the end of 2019.
Howman had worked at the board of elections since 1995.
Queer said changes to the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System forced her to retire earlier than she would have liked.
“They’ve changed the rules to remove and withhold health insurance reimbursement money from us if we are currently re-employed in a public service role,” she said.
The pension fund’s board of trustees voted 9-2 in January 2020 to make the changes, which are slated to take effect Jan. 1, 2022. Essentially, the move means state, county and city workers will shoulder higher costs for health care.
The OPERS group plan will also be eliminated. Replacing it will be a monthly stipend for retirees, like Queer, to find coverage on the open market.
She said the move feels like a “stab in the back” after all the years she’s put into government work and is leading to a swell of retirements across Ohio.
She said she won’t stop volunteering around the community — at the Historical Society, Friends of the Library and others. It will remind her of what she enjoyed the most during her fulfilling career: being a resource to people.
“I’ve just always liked helping people find what it is they’re looking to do,” she said.
Queer said she chose Sept. 30 as her last day because it would give time a new appointee to the board of elections to experience election day in Ashland County, what she called a “good learning experience.”
The Ashland County Republican Party will meet at 7 p.m. on Oct. 7 at the Ashland City Schools Administrative Building to appoint Queer’s successor.