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Retiree Spotlight & Newsletter

Ron Gentry


Second careers can be rewarding. Just ask Ron Gentry. Ron spent 22 years as chief of the Mid-County Fire Protection District in Camdenton, the last seven as a paid fire chief. But then a slight hearing impairment convinced him it was time for new leadership in the district. The president of the board of the fire district gave a strong recommendation upon learning of an opening for the Camden County Purchasing Manager.

Ron knew a thing or two about purchasing from his time with the fire district. He then spent eight years as purchasing manager before the position of Director of Emergency Management available. He continued in that role until retiring at the end of 2020 at age 65.

“It was time to retire and enjoy my free time,” he says. His plan was to get on his Harley and ride. But as his wife still works part time, he’s content to make himself useful around the house for now. Of his retirement so far, Ron says, “It’s been great. Between CERF, LAGERS and Social Security, I’m making more than when I was working.” He also participated in the CERF Savings Plan with the county.

He said he was able to set up the benefits smoothly. He credits Melissa Peters at Camden County HR with helping him navigate the paperwork. He also appreciated that CERF and LAGERS have online calculators, making it easier to understand what he would be drawing in retirement. For now, he says, “I’m just enjoying life and taking it one day at a time.”

Bill Allen


Sometimes, a second career turns out to be a good fit – even if it’s not readily apparent. That was the case for Bill Allen, who retired at the end of 2020 as a deputy with the Platte County Sheriff’s Department. Bill spent 10 years in law enforcement, retiring at 63 after eight years with Platte County.

But he spent the previous 31 years in the lawn and landscaping business. He served as operations manager for Trugreen, a landscaping firm in the Kansas City area. When he decided to make a change, he realized his skills in dealing with the public were transferrable to law enforcement. “I had on-the-job training in customer service, and I wanted to utilize my skills in dealing with the public.” At 54, he was the oldest in his academy class at the Kansas Law Enforcement Center. But he had stayed in good shape and was able to keep up with his younger classmates.

His first position was with the Pottawatomie Kansas Sheriff’s Department. After two years, he and his wife opted to return to the Kansas City area, where he got on with Platte County. At the time, prisoner transport was a fairly new part-time position. The department realized it needed to be a full-time position, and Bill stepped in. This job allowed him to work with other agencies, which he enjoyed.

After eight years, Bill was vested with CERF Pension. He and his wife decided it was time to retire. They have relocated to Little River, SC, near Myrtle Beach.

He said the combined retirement benefits from CERF Pension, Social Security and LAGERS have allowed him to be financially secure. He still has money in the CERF Savings. “I would encourage everyone not to pass up that opportunity, at least to get the match,” he says. “I told the young officers: ‘You need to be doing that.’”

He thinks it speaks well of employers who offer benefits such as CERF: “It shows they care about their employees.”

Dennis Smith


Sometimes a loss becomes a win. Dennis Smith learned that in 2002, when he ran unsuccessfully for state representative from St. Francois County. During that campaign, he got to know Sheriff Dan Bullock. After the election, Bullock asked Smith if he’d be interested in running the county’s detention facility. Bullock, incidentally, has served continuously since 1992. Smith credits Bullock for his own career with the county.

A military veteran, Smith thought the job might be a good fit for his skills. He became certified as a law enforcement officer and took the position in June 2003. He stayed in that position until retiring at the end of December 2019.

“It was never boring,” he says. He especially enjoyed networking with other detention facility administrators. He said the Jail Administrators’ Conference is a great way to realize that each facility faces similar problems. “It’s very informative,” he says. “I miss the association with the other administrators.”

Even though he enjoyed the relationships with employees in the sheriff’s department, he decided to retire when he realized his combined Social Security, CERF and LAGERS pensions matched his salary. The 66-year-old Smith and his wife now have time to spend with their parents and with their grandchildren.

Of the CERF pension, Smith says “It was an easy process. Everything started on time.” He does have one regret: “I did not participate in the CERF Savings. My chief deputy recommended it, but I never did it. I regret not doing that.” He thinks county employees should take advantage of all the benefits CERF offers.

Karen Miller


“If you’re not at the table, it’s likely you’re on the menu.” So says Karen M. Miller, summing up why she chose a career in public service. Karen, 68, retired in 2017 after 24 years as Associate County Commissioner in Boone County. A restaurant and bar owner in Columbia, she was introduced to politics while working for the family of Roger Wilson, during a special election for state senate.

“It was exciting and energizing,” she says. “You could see how you could make a difference.” She was elected to the commission in 1992. She took to the job and became more and more involved, deciding it was important to get involved in associations that benefit officeholders and citizens. She eventually became president of the National Association of Counties.

But after 24 years, she chose not to run for re-election. “I didn’t enjoy going to the State Legislature anymore, or to Washington, D.C.,” she says. “People were getting so entrenched in politics, rather than working for the good of the people.”

She is still active, though, serving as president of the Boone County Historical Society, among other interests. She credits her CERF benefits as giving her freedom in retirement: “CERF is wonderful. With my pension and Social Security, I don’t have to dip into my CERF Savings. That’s travel money. It’s a very comforting feeling to know you have enough in the bank to weather a health emergency, or any number of things that could come up.”

She’s a huge proponent of the CERF Savings Plan. “The best thing I ever did when CERF started was to set aside the 6% that was eligible for a match. If you don’t see it, you never miss it. And it really adds up.”

Jean Cook


“Retiring is one of the best things I’ve ever done.” So says Jean Cook, former Laclede County Treasurer. Jean, 69, retired in January 2019 after 24 years in office. She says she came to county government in 1983. She was operating a day care center in her home when word got out that the previous Treasurer, Agnes Core, requested part-time help. Jean spent 12 years in the office, learning the ins and outs of the job. Then when Agnes retired, Jean successfully ran for the office in 1994.

She says she enjoyed the challenge of making everything balance. She still marvels at all the changes that occurred, going from big ledger books to doing everything on computers. She also laughs at all the times her office moved, owing to various renovations and eventually the construction of a new courthouse. “I moved five times,” she says. But in 2018, she decided it was time to retire. “I miss some of the people, but I was ready. I made some real good friends.” She admits it was emotional to walk out the door that final time.

Regarding CERF, Jean says both the Pension and Savings Plans provide peace of mind. “You don’t have to worry about finances.” She especially supports the Savings Plan. “Everyone who has a chance should put as much as possible into that 457 Plan.” She calls the CERF Match “free money.” She and her husband, Lonnie, plan to travel in retirement. They’ve already completed a two-week trip to Alaska, to celebrate their 50th anniversary. More trips are on the way.

Jerry Richardson


Jerry Richardson knows first-hand how much CERF helps retirees. Richardson, 73, served as Oregon County Collector from 1986-2015. He remembers CERF’s beginnings in the early 1990s, and the years of work it took before Gov. Mel Carnahan signed legislation in 1994, providing a retirement not only for county officials, but for almost all county employees. Even though he was in the CERF Pension Plan and contributed to the CERF Savings Plan, he didn’t fully appreciate what this was going to mean for him.

But almost immediately after his retirement, his wife’s health began to deteriorate. “Long-term illnesses are always extremely difficult, but they are made much worse by a lot of unexpected out-of-pocket expenses,” he says. “It was only after her passing in March of 2019 that I really had the presence of mind to evaluate the financial impact of the situation. “And it was only then when I really realized, and fully appreciated, not only the importance of my CERF Pension, but also the great help that my CERF Savings Plan would be during my retirement. “I had contributed the maximum allowed to the matching plan since it first began, which gave me several years of savings. It really made things a lot easier for me during a very rough time. When you have a loved one with a terminal illness, you come to realize that there are so many unexpected expenses not covered by your insurance.”

He says he’s thankful for the many enduring relationships he developed with county employees in Oregon County and throughout the state. “As I look back, I realize that the quality of our courthouses has been made much better because of a more secure retirement. This is due in part because of a Governor who cared about public servants, along with my fellow county officials who worked together for a common cause for retirement security.” He sums up: “Thoughts of retirement security are of importance when you are working, but they become even much more important after you retire. I am very thankful for CERF.”

Karalyle Flenniken


“If I had it to do over, I would do the same thing.” How many of us can say that? Karalyle Flenniken can, and does. Karalyle, 77, retired from the Jasper County Courthouse in 2017, after 30 years. She began in the treasurer’s office, working there for eight years. Then she was ready to leave, to help take care of her grandson. But the county clerk called and asked her to work in the election office, so Karalyle remained on the job for another 22 years.

She saw a lot of changes through the years, mostly involving technology. Counting ballots by hand was a slow process; she remembers one election night that kept everyone there until 6:30 a.m. the next day. “Automation sure sped things up for us,” she recalls. She says she always liked her job. “I really enjoyed it. I always had nice people to work with and nice bosses.” She still checks in with her co-workers. “I’ll just run in to see them. I’m always glad to see them, and they seem to be glad to see me,” she laughs.

Karalyle says her pensions have made a huge difference in her life. Between her CERF and LAGERS pensions, she is earning almost as much as when she worked. “It’s really nice to have those pensions,” she says. She spends her time working on the family farm and playing piano for the Lamar high school and middle school choirs. Summing it all up, Karalye says, “I just enjoyed my 30 years at the courthouse. If I had it to do over, I would do the same thing.”

Jody Pearl


“It’s a blessing.” That’s how Jody Pearl describes her county retirement package, which consisted of three parts: CERF Pension, CERF Savings and LAGERS pension. Jody, 64, retired in 2017 after 26 years in DeKalb County. She served 14 years as deputy county clerk, then became collector/treasurer in 2005. She remained in that job for 12 years. She says she enjoyed the face-to-face interactions with taxpayers and made many friends in the courthouse. She took satisfaction in balancing the books each month, and always enjoyed annual training sessions with other collectors and treasurers. “You realize they have the same problems as you do,” she recalls.

But she knew she didn’t want to work past 65, and left office to help care for her aging mother. She credits the retirement package with helping her do this. “Without that, I would not have been able to retire when I did.” The benefits package also allowed her to delay taking Social Security, thereby increasing that benefit. Jody is an especially big backer of the CERF Savings Plan. “I encourage anyone, no matter what age, to at least do 6%, more if you can,” she says. “You often regret money you spend, but you never regret money you save. Never.” And when that Savings Plan match hit each spring, “It’s like Christmas in March.”

Jody always enjoyed quilting, so two weeks after leaving office she began work with Missouri Star Quilt Company, in Hamilton. She still helps out with large events. She and her husband, Ron, have moved closer to their two sons in Kansas City. Their goal is to get to as many national parks as possible. So far, they are at 12 and counting. So watch for Jody at a national park or quilt show near you.

Sharon Schlager


Some people retire but don’t stop working. Case in point: Sharon Schlager, the retired Lewis County Clerk. After some 40 years with the county, she decided it was time to step down in 2014 at age 61. But she’s hardly idle these days, as she and her husband Jim raise registered Angus cattle. This second career keeps her busy, to say the least. “I love it,” she says. “I’ve always loved the outdoors.” In addition to working with her husband, she and her three sisters attend Women in Agriculture conferences around the country. She’s got a full life, and is grateful her health allows her to stay busy. Sharon’s first county job was in 1973 in the Collector’s office. Soon after, Clerk Linton Jenkins offered her a job in voter registration. She continued doing that until he retired. She served as deputy clerk under three people, and eventually ran for Clerk in 1990. She was clerk for 24 years. “I loved it all,” she says. “I liked working with the public. I loved the math and the accounting part of the office. I became friends with all the commissioners.”

She says a reason she succeeded on the job so long is that she tried to stay bipartisan. She thinks remaining neutral is essential for the County Clerk in overseeing elections. Now that she’s retired from the county, she’s drawing two pensions: CERF and LAGERS. In her own experience and in talking to others, Sharon notices that it’s possible to retire at the same or even a higher salary. What has the CERF pension meant to her? “Oh, man, it’s awesome! It’s helped us get through some rough times.”

She also recommends the CERF Savings Plan: “I highly recommend people get on the CERS Savings Plan. Every young person needs to be on it.” She remembers telling Road and Bridge employees they should be in the savings plan. “I’d show them what mine had built to. I’d say, ‘You guys are young. You should be doing this.’”

Sharon Kleine


Sharon Kleine won’t say her life began at retirement, but it certainly didn’t end at retirement, either. Sharon, 73, retired as Lawrence County Treasurer in 2014 after 16 years in office. But county government was only her latest career. She was a teacher for 31 years. She began teaching fifth grade. But at age 28 in 1973, she suffered a major heart condition and was hospitalized for 55 days. “They shocked me 48 times,” she recalls, resulting in some serious burns. At first, a pacemaker was taped to her forearm. After a couple of weeks, her heart rhythms finally stabilized. “It was a miraculous recovery,” she says. After that health scare, she took a year to recover. Then she went back to teaching, but in a different capacity – working with children of migrant workers in grades K-12. “I was the Parents as First Teachers coordinator,” she says. She loved that work because it allowed her to look at the child as a whole. Often, she says, “My job was helping the family get a place to stay and getting daddy a job.” She continued that work for 28 years.

In 1998, she felt it was time to retire from teaching. Several Lawrence County office holders were retiring. “I just knew that the Treasurer’s position was something for me.” She ran against a field of five, and won her first election. She would be re-elected three more times. She says the Treasurer’s job appealed to her because it combines her two loves: mathematics and community service. “Math put the world in order for me,” she says. She combined her love of higher math with accounting courses. “It was an even an even better job than I anticipated. It was the best of two worlds: social interaction and working with numbers.” But her health convinced her it was finally time to retire. She fought through a breast cancer scare, and then a week after she retired she had hip replacement surgery. She says she is doing well now.

She and her husband, Bob, have a passion for landscaping and travel – especially in the Southwest. And she credits CERF with helping her follow those passions: “CERF meant I can have my outdoor heated pool at 90 degrees,” she laughs. “It means we can have a zero-turn mower, and get the lawn work done sooner.” In addition to the CERF Pension, she took advantage of the CERF Savings from the start. “CERF brought me some security,” she says, “and the personal contact CERF has offered has been a very positive factor.”

Betty Knight


Betty Knight never looked at serving in county government as a stepping stone to something else. The retired Platte County Commissioner says, “I had no ambition to go elsewhere. I enjoyed serving my friends and neighbors. Those 16 years in county government were the joy of my life.” Betty began her career as Deputy Treasurer in 1989. She worked for Treasurer Judy Stokes for six years. Judy was active in many aspects of county government, including the Missouri Association of Counties; Betty said she learned a lot from Judy, and eventually Betty would go on to become MAC president herself. Because Betty was involved in so many facets of county government, including budgeting, she was encouraged to run for County Commissioner. She was elected in 1994 and took office in 1995. She’s proud of her accomplishments as Commissioner. Among these was construction of a new county jail. She helped spread the word about the need for a new jail. The result was a sales tax that passed with 78% of the vote, at the time the largest yes vote for a law enforcement tax in the state.

Other sources of pride are the county’s parks plan, road plan and a plan for growth. Betty says none of these accomplishments would have happened without the help of others. “I worked with a lot of really good Commissioners over the years,” she says. After being elected four times, Betty retired in 2010. Now 70, she enjoys spending time with her husband, who is also retired. They have traveled to such locales as the Panama Canal and Alaska. A trip to the Gulf of Mexico is forthcoming. The couple has two daughters, both married to Marine Corps pilots. They also have three granddaughters. By working with MAC, Betty developed an appreciation for CERF. “I saw how important it was,” she says, “especially for people who didn’t have LAGERS.”

She gives CERF high marks: “It’s viable and the financials look great. I think the board and the investment advisors serve the retirees well.” She adds, “CERF does a really good job about communication with retirees.” She’s especially impressed with the Member Self-Service Portal at www.mocerf.org, which she calls extremely important these days. In summation, Betty says, “It’s important for folks to have something coming back to them as a retirement benefit.” She knows counties can’t pay as much as the private sector, but she sees public pension plans like CERF as “a reward for public service.”

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.