LONG / BLADE Enlarge
Tom Mohr admits he's a member of a dying breed.
In an occupation now predominantly practiced by women, the Hillsdale County clerk said he is one of 12 male clerks in the state of Michigan - a likely casualty of the low pay.
But Mr. Mohr wouldn't consider leaving his office on the first floor of the county courthouse for something better, because he really couldn't imagine what that would be.
He loves working with other county leaders, he loves working to make his office more efficient, and he loves how much variety his job offers.
It's this commitment to his job and his county that earned the longtime clerk the award of clerk of the year, an annual honor given by the Michigan Association of County Clerks.
“I have this love for county government. I really love being the county clerk,” Mr. Mohr said. “I learned a long time ago that obviously you work to make a living, but you should also work to make a life.
“If you don't enjoy what you are doing, I would suggest to anyone that you should go do something else.”
Mr. Mohr, 61, was chosen from among the 83 county clerks statewide to receive the award. According to the association president, Carolyn Flores, the clerks who are chosen have to have been active in the organization and in the community. They must demonstrate a commitment to the profession and have enjoyed a long career of public service.
Ms. Flores said it is becoming more and more unusual to find men in clerk's offices. When Mr. Mohr began 19 years ago, about half the county clerks were men, a number that has since dwindled.
“We appreciate the ones that stay in,” Ms. Flores said. “Tom is an all-around good guy. He's not out on a political agenda. He's doing a job and he's doing it well.”
Mr. Mohr began his service to the community as a schoolteacher for Litchfield Community Schools, a position he held for several years. While still teaching chemistry and math, the then 31-year-old Mr. Mohr was appointed by the Ransom Township board to serve out the term of the township clerk, who had recently resigned.
Thus began his political life.
Mr. Mohr, a Republican, enjoyed public office so much that he ran for county commission, a seat that he held from 1980 to 1984. It was during that time that he quit his teaching job and decided to make Hillsdale County his full-time employer.
“I was the first person in 40 years to unseat a Republican that was currently in office, and it was very close,” Mr. Mohr said. “I'm now in my fifth term.”
As county clerk, Mr. Mohr is in charge of records for all aspects of county government. He is the clerk of the county courts, his office keeps track of all vital records, including birth, death, and marriage certificates, and the county commissioners rely on his staff to be the legal custodians of their records. The clerk is also responsible for accounts payable and the payroll and is chief elections officer. As clerk, he is paid $43,000 a year.
“He does a fantastic job as clerk, probably one of the best,” said longtime County Commissioner Olin Hinkle. “He's really dedicated to his position.”