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Peggy Bowen has called it quits after six. Six terms as city clerk that is.
Bowen had served as city clerk for the past 24 years, the longest city clerk in Vandalia’s history. Her last day was Friday, April 30.
“I am happy, yet kind of sad to leave,” Bowen told the Leader-Union last week. “These have been my friends for 24 years. This staff has been so good to work with. Everyone said I would know when it was time to retire and in 2017 I wasn’t ready; in 2020 when it was time to file, I had figured it was time to have fun.”
Bowen grew up in St. Peter, got married and moved to Vandalia. She is a graduate of Farina-LaGrove High School, and got married as soon as she got out of high school.
She had worked in the county clerk’s office for 10 years before opening Winning Image Sportswear, which was where the Baan Thai restaurant is now located. She and her husband operated the store for eight years.
“Norma Cearlock, then city clerk, decided not to run again in 1997. Bruce, my husband, encouraged me to run because he knew how much I enjoyed working at the courthouse,” Bowen recalled. “I decided to do it and had one person run against me and won.”
Bowen credits the citizens of Vandalia for her longevity in the office.
“They were so good to support me over the years. I have had no opponents since that first time running,” she said.
Although Bowen made the job look easy, she says it was the taxes which was the toughest part of the job, dividing up the revenues and keeping track of what monies went where. She says initially elections were a bit rough, making sure that all paperwork was filed and everything was correct for publication. However, she said, after the second or third time, it got much easier.
“Christmas was the best,” she smiled. “In 1997 I wanted to do something special, something that could be carried on. I bought some ornaments and had Bruce put designs on them, for all of the employees that worked here. As time went on and we put up the Christmas tree over the years, we would tell stories about everyone who worked here.”
Bowen says she considers everyone at city hall her extended family.
“We help each other and we all get along really well.”
Bowen says she considers her main accomplishment was getting a more than $250,000 state water bill paid off. This was a couple of decades when the state was deeply in debt, and she had worked with representatives in Springfield to get the debt paid to the city. Other notable accomplishments were implementing direct deposits for employees and electronic billing. She was also instrumental in getting the software installed to help find local graves in cemeteries.
“These are a few of the things I am really proud of accomplishing,” she said.
And just what does she have planned for retirement?
“I have never really had the chance to enjoy my house. I love to mow. Now, there is nothing that says, ‘You have to do this now,’” she said. “I am not going to lie, we are going to do a little traveling as well, probably to Arizona to visit my son. We will probably go to the street rod nationals, and possibly go to area Jeep jamborees.”
Even though she won’t be city clerk, it appears that Peggy Bowen will not be slowing down any time soon.