When Karen Looker applied for the vacant Fremont village clerk position just over 20 years ago, she was already a bit familiar with it.
“I was helping out. The previous clerk was dismissed,” she said. “Pete Lantvit was the village president and called and said, ‘Are you willing to help?’”
Looker agreed to do so.
“Then, they posted my job, and I decided to apply for it. I was told all I’d probably have to do is answer the phone and answer questions,” she said. “It was quite a bit more.”
It was November of 1993 when Looker was hired to become the village’s clerk.
Shortly after starting, she found herself going through the first of many tax seasons.
Looker networked with other clerks and said Waupaca County Clerk Mary Robbins has “always been terrific. We’ve been very lucky with our public officials.”
A native of Oshkosh, Looker and her husband, David, moved to Fremont in 1973.
The couple met in a geography class in 1969 and were married the following year.
He served in the U.S. Army for three years before the couple moved to his hometown of Fremont in 1973.
“We’ve been here ever since. I can’t imagine living in Oshkosh anymore,” Looker said. “The small town is more my style.”
Before becoming Fremont’s village clerk, she was a stay-at-home mom and then the officer manager of Tee-Off Enterprises in Readfield for seven years.
Looking back at her 20-year career, Looker said she saw many changes during those years.
Among them were more state reports and online payroll tax deposits.
“They forced us online. They forced us to learn the computer,” she said.
What changed the most during her tenure was the election process.
“People could just say their name and address when voting. Now, they need proof of residency,” Looker said. “Back then, we took the people’s word for it more. There’s a lot in the background people don’t see with the job. You do your best. You try to help them.”
In one case, Looker helped a teenaged boy had who run away.
“It was cold outside. I made him a little bed in the gym. I got him a sub. When the police officer arrived, he took over,” she said. “It’s the little things. You just help when you can.”
Looker described it as an interesting job.
“There were so many different things. I was always jumping from one thing to another. I liked the challenge,” she said. “Some people just stop in to say, ‘Hi.’ You get to know everybody. That’s what I’ll miss most – the people.”
Her last day on the job is Monday, Dec. 30.
Her husband retired three years ago, and when asked why she decided to retire now, Looker said, “I’m 66. I’m getting Social Security now.”
Their plans include visiting friends in Florida and Alabama in January and a trip to Alaska in the summer.
She looks forward to being able to come and go as she wants and going out for breakfast.
The couple has two children – Matthew and Jessica (Schwirtz).
Matthew and his wife, Rebecca, have two children – Andrew and Emma – and live in Fremont.
Jessica and her husband, Kristopher, live in Eau Claire.
During the last 20 years, Looker worked with five different village presidents: Peter Lantvit, Sr., Jack Rasmussen, Joe Smith, Gary Austin and Dan Sambs.
The village’s new clerk will be Dawn Krause.
“One reason why I won’t worry about this job is because she’s going to be terrific,” Looker said. “I’ve seen her for years and often thought she’d be a good clerk. I haven’t met one person who isn’t happy she’s our new clerk. I don’t feel bad about leaving now.”
Krause was one of about a dozen people who applied for the position.
The village’s Employee Committee, along with Sambs, interviewed each applicant.
“I had nothing to do with the hiring,” Looker said.
Looker plans to stop at the village hall from time to time to see how Krause is doing and said she would also help with elections.
“It’s been a wonderful job,” Looker said.