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Retiree Spotlight & Newsletter

Tom Layne


Tom Layne was involved in the early stages of CERF, and he knows firsthand what a difference it makes in retirement. In 1983, Tom answered an ad in the paper for data collectors in Cooper County. Reassessment was going to take effect in 1985, and this was going to be a major undertaking. So he started working in the office in 1983. When the assessor at the time passed away in 1984, Tom was then appointed assessor, and he ran for the office at the   next opportunity. He remained Cooper County assessor until 1997. “I enjoyed the work,” he says. “I got to get out and see the people. I enjoyed working at the courthouse too.” He admits that assessor can be a thankless job. “Everybody thinks you’re raising their taxes, but you’re just assessing the property.” He often pointed out that “When you vote to raise your taxes, they’re going to raise. You never have to vote on anything that lowers your taxes.”

In 1994, Tom was in on the early planning stages for CERF. He made a lot of trips to Jefferson City and helped with studies that determined how CERF would function. “We put the figures together, and it really turned out nice,” he recalls. After his time in county government, Tom worked for an insurance company for about 12 years, allowing him to delay taking his CERF pension until age 62, the full retirement age. Now 70, Tom lives in Benton County. He credits CERF for allowing him to retire. “You can’t make a living on Social Security, that’s for sure,” he says. “CERF is one of the better retirements going.”

“It’s made it so I can meet my bills and live comfortably. And we’ve always gotten a COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) increase.” He also praises the CERF staff. “Anytime I’ve had a question, the people have been so helpful,” he says. “I can’t say enough good about it.”

Diana Barnett


Diana Barnett was initially skeptical. The Webster County deputy clerk heard that a new pension plan was beginning in 1994, but wasn’t sure if she wanted to participate. At its inception, the County Employees’ Retirement Fund was optional. “I didn’t start CERF right away,” she remembers. “But I saw that it was a pretty good deal and I did the     buyback.” Now that she has retired, she’s grateful for CERF. “I’m glad I did the buyback. I think it’s good that  (participation) is mandatory now, because a lot of people wouldn’t do it.” Diana’s career in county government started in 1991, when she went to work for County Clerk Lois Minor. “She knew me and wanted somebody part-time to work on records.”

Soon, she was filling in in just about every office in the courthouse. “The only office I didn’t work in was the assessor’s,” she says. Diana continued floating from office to office even after she went to full-time. “Lois retired in 1999 and I knew Stan (Whitehurst) was going to run, so I talked to him about being deputy clerk.” Whitehurst was elected, and Diana settled into her new duties, which included human resources – giving her even more appreciation for benefits like CERF. She retired in 2012, and faced a decision about which CERF Pension option to take. She wasn’t able to draw Social Security yet, so she took the Level Income Option – paying her a larger amount at first, which decreased after her Social Security kicked in. “I don’t draw a big amount, but it helps,” she says. “I know it’s going to be there.”

Reflecting on her time in county government, Diana says, “I enjoyed the excitement. I got along pretty well with everybody.” The one thing she doesn’t miss is the stress at election time and at the end of the calendar year. Diana’s husband Larry retired in March of this year. Together, they operate a flea market with their son. Their two grandkids are involved in sports, so Diana attends lots of events. “And the grandkids like my swimming pool,” Diana laughs. Reflecting on the importance of CERF and other retirement plans, Diana says, “With the economy now, a person needs to look ahead because you never know if Social Security is going to be there. Social Security is here for me, but the younger people may not have the opportunity to draw any.”

Ernestine Doss


All job interviews should be as smooth as the one Ernestine Doss had in 1984.   The Howell County treasurer, Max Burk, had a position to fill and he knew that Ernestine had done some bookkeeping, prior to taking time off to raise her children. So he called Ernestine on a Friday and asked her to come in the following Monday.   “I walked in and he took my coat and hung it in the closet and said, ‘Well, get to work,’” she laughs.    “I never dreamed I’d stay 30 years.”  

But stay, she did. She worked for Burk for 10 years, then for his successor, Truell Harrison for 11 years. Harrison died in office, and Gov. Matt Blunt appointed Ernestine to fill the remainder of the term. She then ran for the office and was elected and then re-elected.   What kept her in that office for 29 years? “I loved bookkeeping, and the people were really nice to work with,” she says. “I can honestly say I never had a cross word with either one of my bosses.”   Ernestine, 73, retired in 2015. But she’s hardly been idle. She and her husband, Donald, have a farm in West Plains, and she still keeps the books and does the payroll for the farm. And scrapbooking is her major hobby.   

Now that she’s drawing her CERF pension, how has it made a difference in her life? “The pension is the reason I can stay home,” she says. “Without it, I couldn’t spend the money on my hobby. And the pension always helps with other expenses, too.”    Ernestine is also a believer in the CERF Savings Plan. “I should have started that before I did,” she confesses. “I regret not doing it earlier.”    For now, she’s got family to keep her busy. She has two children, one granddaughter and three grandsons, all living within a mile of her home.    “I’m very fortunate.”   

Dixie Wagner


If you ever doubt what a difference CERF can make in a retiree’s life, just talk to Dixie Wagner.   Dixie, 68, retired from Taney County in January 2015. She now lives in Ozark, to be closer to her two grandchildren.    She worked for the county for 26 years, starting as a part-time employee in voter registration.    As she transitioned to full-time, the county gave her more and more duties.   And it was with employee benefits that she found the most satisfaction.When the county started a human resources department, Dixie was the natural choice to run the department.

“I loved my work,” she said.    “The employees were great to work with, and they appreciated everything you did.”   She was there when CERF was created, in 1994.   “I grew with it,” she said.    Because she knew CERF from the beginning, it was easier to explain to new hires.   And now that she’s drawing her pension, what difference has CERF made in her life? “Financially, CERF has taken the stress out of my retirement.   By the end of the month I still have a little bit of money that I’m saving.”   Her immediate goal is to visit her son in Anchorage.   “I don’t think I could do that if I didn’t have my CERF,” she said.   Dixie is grateful for all the friends she made with the county.   But she’s even more grateful that her husband, John Bledsoe, is in remission from Stage 4 esophageal cancer.    “He is doing very well and riding his motorcycle,” she said.  

So watch for Dixie and John on the roads of Christian County. They’ve got a lot to celebrate.

Fall 2016 Retiree Newsletter
Fall 2017 Retiree Newsletter

Febuary 13th, 2017
Lincoln's Birthday

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