After 21 years of serving the citizens of Monroe County as its county clerk, Dennis Knobloch is retiring.
“The timing was right more than anything,” said Knobloch, who turns 65 on Thursday. “I would be more than willing to continue working for another year or so, but a job like this you have to take in four-year chunks. I felt it was time to move on to the next chapter of my life and let somebody else take the position.”
Although he will still serve as village administrator in Valmeyer, this largely marks the end of a long and distinguished career of public service for Knobloch.
After leading Valmeyer through the process of relocating and rebuilding after the Flood of 1993 as mayor and administrator, Knobloch was appointed county clerk in December 1997.
His appointment came after longtime county clerk Richard A. Trost was sentenced to serve 50 months in prison for mail fraud and money laundering.
“Throughout my life I’ve had an interest in politics and public service,” Knobloch, a Republican, said of why he took the position. “I spent a lot of years involved in local government with the village of Valmeyer and when this opportunity presented itself I thought, ‘what better way to continue my service to the community than to accept the appointment to this position.’”
Knobloch’s first priority during his first year in office was to reestablish the public’s faith in the integrity of the office.
He said he did that, but not on his own.
“A lot of it depended on the assistance of my team, my employees who were here in the office,” he explained. “Throughout my entire time I’ve been here, I’ve had a very hardworking and dedicated group of people working in the office. They are the face of the office in the front door. So, it depends on having a quality team.”
After serving out the last year of Trost’s term, Knobloch won re-election to full four-year terms in 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014.
He said he wanted to stay in the job because more work needed to be done.
“There always were additional things that could be done here to improve the service to the community and make things operate better,” he noted. “It was always a challenge and continues to be with the new laws that keep coming down for elections and how you handle the recording of land records and documents.”
In addition to those new regulations, Knobloch said the most difficult part of his tenure has been keeping up with technology.
“When I started here the elections were still with the old punch card ballots,” he remembered. “As we made the transition to the electronic equipment, the optical scan ballots and the touch screen equipment, it has continued to provide a challenge to first of all come up with the necessary funding. It’s not cheap to bring in new systems like that and to continue to maintain and upgrade the equipment as necessary to provide the quality service.”
Knobloch added the growth in Monroe County has provided other challenges, as his office changed and adapted to accommodate the new citizens.
“Back when I started, you could still drive from Columbia to Waterloo and not see much in between except cornfields,” Knobloch recalled. “Now that has all changed with the development in both areas and throughout the county.”
Even with those difficulties, Knobloch said he has enjoyed his job, with one aspect being his favorite.
“What I have always enjoyed most about this job is working with the people,” he said. “Throughout my life I’ve had jobs where I’ve worked with the public and I’ve really enjoyed that part of it. That’s the part I’m going to miss.”
Knobloch has already begun working with his successor, Republican Jonathan McLean. He has met with McLean to help him get acclimated to the role.
“I think it’s going to be a very smooth transition,” Knobloch said. “He’s very qualified. I think he’ll do a great job for the public.”
After Knobloch’s last day on Nov. 30, he said he does not have specific plans for his retirement.
“I don’t really have anything definite planned, but I have always been extremely active in community events and outside activities,” he said. “I have a list of things that I’ve been keeping through the years that I haven’t quite gotten to finish. I figure if I live to be 127, I’ll get all those things done.”
His tenure as county clerk, however, is all but done. Knobloch said he hopes his legacy will be one of outstanding service. “I would just hope that everybody in the county who has dealt with me feels that I have done a good job of taking care of their needs,” he said. “I have never been farther away from the public than a phone call or a visit to my office. No matter who came in the office, we took care of their needs and answered their questions. I think that’s why I feel that through the years we have done a good job of running the office.”