Asked how it felt to be the first female county commissioner in Monroe County’s 200-year history, Vicki Koerber said she first became aware of the possibility after the primary election this past spring.
“I’m honored. I’m humbled,” she said quietly following her first formal meeting Monday.
Koerber is no stranger to firsts or early endeavors for women. She came to the county board position from her position as a 12-year alderwoman on the Waterloo City Council, where she shared the second and third aldermanic seats for women with Rita Trantham.
And that was not her first experience of a door opening for females.
“I was in high school when Title IX was passed,” she said.
Title IX is a federal law passed in the 1970s to ensure educational institutions can’t exclude participants based on gender. The passage of Title IX saw opportunities for women to participate in sports at the high school and college levels soar.
“Until my junior year at Waterloo High School, we essentially had Girls Athletic Association and nothing else if we wanted to participate in organized sports activities,” she said.
Koerber, who had previously run in AAU track in Belleville, witnessed the beginning of what many take for granted today – girls competing in virtually all high school and college sports.
Koerber, a lifelong resident of Monroe County, spoke glowingly of her parents, who hailed from Wartburg, and growing up on Maeystown Road.
“The name Kohlmeier Builder is well-known here,” she said, noting her father parlayed an eighth grade education and a lot of hard work into building countless homes regionally.
Her parents sent four children to college to boot.
“And we are still here,” she noted, ticking off a list of family small businesses dotted across the area.
“Do you remember the Bee Hive Bowl?” she asked. “That was my aunt and uncle.”
Turning back to the matter of becoming the county’s first female commissioner, Koerber noted she has served with Monroe County EMS for 20 years along with her service to the city.
“I don’t see gender barriers. It’s just a matter of doing your job,” she said. “I’ve shouldered responsibilities in Monroe County, too – as coroner and at emergencies with the ambulance service. I don’t want to be limited.”
Shifting focus to her future with the county board, Koerber noted she has been attending meetings regularly for 14 months, since she first considered throwing her hat into the ring for Terry Liefer’s seat upon his retirement.
“I want to be a good communicator. I want citizens to know my door is open and my phone is ready as well. I want to hear issues and problems. I want people to know I am listening,” Koerber said. “I want to cut red tape. I want to work to provide answers. They may not always be the answer someone wants, but I want them to know I listened, dug and got an answer.
“I will be attentive and respond with the best professionalism I can,” she added.
Looking at Monroe County’s future, Koerber is especially complimentary of Edie Koch, who is heading up the new Monroe County Economic Development Corporation.
“She gets it,” Koerber said. “She sees the possibilities and steps necessary to go there. She understands the idea of shovel ready, plan ready areas we can offer businesses that are now too often running away from Illinois.”
Paralleling the economic development theme, Koerber listed requirements for the county’s future.
“We need to foster and sustain good communities that work together. We need to be financially and fiscally responsible, and we need to support our existing businesses while we bring in new ones,” she said.
Perhaps one more telling characteristic of Koerber’s nature and commitment to Monroe County came as her interview neared its end and she paused to take a call.
“I’ll be there in 15 minutes,” she said.
It was new Monroe County Coroner Bob Hill, her former assistant in that office.
“He’s settling in and has a question,” she said while rising and gathering her paperwork from her first session as a county commissioner.
Willingness and energy are obvious parts of the package.