By Jordan Huether
As of Monday, August 6, 2012, Linda Witt has worked at the Sheridan County Courthouse for fifty years, “Which means I started working here when I was two!” Linda adds with a grin.
Now 70, Linda started her career at the courthouse on August 6, 1962, working for then County Clerk Rita Huigens. “I had a background in real estate from my previous job at an attorney’s office, so I was able to start the job without really any training.”
There was still some learning to be done, however, as all of the checks and filings were hand written at that time. “I liked the job very much,” remembers Linda. “Rita was a wonderful lady. She was very patient and kind, and she didn’t fuss and follow me around. She just said, ‘this is how it needs to be done, and this is the end result, so do it.’”
By 1979, Linda had outgrown her job in the County Clerks office, and decided to take the abstractors/title insurance exam. After passing the exam, she decided to run for County Commissioner, and was elected to represent District 2 for four years. “I must have been a bad county commissioner, because I won by a landslide, and then when I re-ran, I lost by a landslide,” she said with a laugh.
At the time, there were only a few female County Commissioners in the entire state of Nebraska, and Linda is still the only female to ever serve in Sheridan County. “I really enjoyed being a county commissioner. I regret that I didn’t get more done in those four years, but there are three county commissioners and you have to have a majority,” she explained. Despite their differences, Linda stated that the gentlemen she served with were very capable men, and they pushed her in the right direction when she got off course.
Some of the changes she pushed for as a commissioner included renovations to the courthouse, which was built before the time of electricity. “We had gas lights in this courthouse when it started out, and a coal furnace, so it could use quite a bit of updating.”
In 1983, after her term as county commissioner was up, she did title insurance and abstracting, and also worked part-time for County Assessor Floreen Sydow. By 1991, the title and abstracting business had become overcrowded, and it was very difficult to make ends meet, so Linda returned to the County Clerk’s office to work for Sindy Coburn as her deputy. When Karen Palmer retired as County Assessor in 1999, Linda ran and was elected as County Assessor for Sheridan County. While rewarding, the job was very demanding and stressful. “The County Assessor is caught between the department of revenue who says you have to do things the state way, the county commissioners who say ‘we would like you to do things in a more kindly manner,’ and doing the right thing. It’s really a difficult position to be in, and after eight years, I decided not to run for re-election,” she explained. “When Trudy (Winter) was elected in 2007, I was hired as her deputy, where I have been happily ever since.”
Out of the many responsibilities Linda has had over the years, her favorite has been real estate. “I love the work and I love meeting the people. Not only have I made many great friends locally, but I also made a lot of friends on the state level, including several senators and governors.”
Several things have changed since Linda started at the courthouse 50 years ago. In 1962, the superintendent of school’s office was on the main floor, but has since been removed, as it was no longer needed. There was also a welfare office in the basement, which has since become social services, and is now in a separate building and more state oriented. “Years ago, a gentleman from the department of revenue told me that county government would cease to exist as we knew it back then, and it has done a lot of changing, and they have eliminated offices they felt were unnecessary,” she recalls. “A lot of things have changed over the years. I think that the state would like to take over more of the authority, and I think that would be a shame, because the county and city governments are the people’s best chance to be heard. You can come tell us your problems face to face and we will listen.”
Linda attributes her success to the support she has received from her family. They have always been there for her when she needed them. She also has a great outlook on life. “You have to expect the best everyday,” she claims. “You can’t go around expecting gloom and doom. Just expect the best of people, and a lot of times that’s exactly what will happen.”
The last fifty years have really been a learning experience for Linda, who still learns new things every day. She was even around when computers were introduced, which she at first reluctantly learned, but now can’t live without. “One thing you learn in county government, which is probably true about everything, is ‘Don’t learn it too well, because you’re going to have to unlearn it tomorrow and learn something new!”
Linda plans to retire in the near future, but for now she just enjoys the work too much. She’d like to thank everyone for the fun ride, and “Lord willing, I’ll see everybody next year yet. That’s not a threat,” she adds with a grin.
By Jordan Huether