Archive for Thursday, July 9, 2009

County appraiser steps down after 15 years

Donna Graf, center, poses with her family — daughter Lindsey Graf, husband Ray and son Jason — during her retirement party June 30 at the Leavenworth County Courthouse.

Donna Graf, center, poses with her family — daughter Lindsey Graf, husband Ray and son Jason — during her retirement party June 30 at the Leavenworth County Courthouse.

July 9, 2009

Before the Leavenworth County Appraiser’s Office got its new space on the second floor of the courthouse five years ago, the sound of a wooden yardstick tapping on the floor could only mean one thing: Donna Graf was going to find a way to fit more people or furniture into their 25-foot by 25-foot office.

Kelly Buchanan, who worked with Graf, the former county appraiser, for more than 11 years, said everyone in the cramped office would get nervous whenever they heard the tapping sound because it was time to rearrange.

“That woman could put more furniture in the least space and make it functional,” Buchanan said. “She knew every piece of furniture and exactly how much space it would need. When we moved to the new office we told her that the new furniture was fixed to the wall.”

Now, after 24 1/2 years with the county, Graf, along with her trusty yardstick — which she thought had been thrown away but was secretly kept by her coworkers — has decided it is time to retire.

While Graf said she wouldn’t miss getting tax statements mailed to county residents and having to go through hearings, she was going to miss the people.

“A lot of us have been together for many years … we really were a family,” Graf said.

Over the years as the county appraiser, Graf said what had made the work worthwhile was the people with whom she interacted. As the county invested more resources into the appraiser’s office, Graf said the quality improved.

“There is such a good staff there now and they made the work easier,” she said. “Now the taxpayers get more professional people and the work they produce is just that much more professional. I considered it a privilege and an honor to work for the county and the taxpayers.”

Bob Weber, former deputy appraiser who took over Graf’s position on July 1, said employees were important to Graf.

“She always looked after her employees and always took good care of us,” Weber said.

Graf began her work with the county in 1979 as an entry-level clerk in the Appraiser’s Office. After four years and a promotion to deputy appraiser, Graf and her family moved out of town. In 1985 she was hired back to the Appraiser’s Office, but this time as a coordinator to help the county be compliant with mandates for a statewide reappraisal. After the four-year position ended, Graf took another break from the county before coming back to the Leavenworth County Clerk’s Office in 1993. Later that year she took her old position as deputy appraiser before being appointed as the county appraiser in November 1994. She stayed on until her last term expired on June 30.

Now, just a little more than a week after her retirement, Graf said it still doesn’t feel like she’s gone.

“It’s more like I’m on a vacation,” Graf said Monday. “There still haven’t been enough days to know what retirement feels like.”

While Graf wants a quieter life with less stress, she still wants to do something with her time, such as volunteering at St. Vincent Clinic in Leavenworth or following her daughter Lindsey Graf, who is an assistant volleyball and girls basketball coach at Tonganoxie High School.


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