The addition is pretty simple. 57 + 32 = 89. And that means for government employees in the IPERS system they can call it a career. Actually it’s the “Rule of 88) but Monroe County Treasurer Peggy VandenBerg is calling it a career a year after she was eligible for retirement and two years short of fulfilling her third appointed and elected term.
Peggy Demry graduated from Centerville High School in 1981 and married Kenny VandenBerg the next September. She was a stay-at-home mom for a few years before joining First Iowa State Bank as a teller. She did teller work as a high school student in Centerville.
After five years, she joined the Monroe County Treasurer’s office under Ruth Morgan. Morgan retired and the board of supervisors appointed Ron Clester to serve until the next election. Sandy Clark challenged Clester in the Democrat primary and was elected in 1989, taking office in January 1990.
When Clark retired in December of 2009, VandenBerg was appointed to fill her term and was elected in 2010 and elected twice more.
VandenBerg has seen a tremendous change in the office in her 32 years. One of the biggest changes was adding driver’s license testing to the duties of treasurer in 2000. And in 20 years that job has morphed. Driver’s licenses went from two to four to now eight years for people under 74 years of age. Iowa Department of Transportation computers have continued to evolve and improve which makes things easier. “I came up using the old D.O.S. system,” said VandenBerg. “People who have used the Windows system since 2004 don’t even know what D.O.S. was.”
One of the best changes in VandenBerg’s mind is working with the IDOT and the Albia Community School District to allow students to take their driver’s test at school. “Skip the Trip for permit testing has been really good for kids and their parents,” said VandenBerg. “Parents don’t have to take days off work to get their kids to the treasurer’s office and kids are a lot more comfortable testing at school.”
Permit takers use their own laptops in a comfortable setting with an approved proctor.
Another big change has been in the sale of license plates. Citizens can choose from 500 pre-paid plates, including decal plates that are specifically designed and manufactured by Iowa Prison Industries.
Paying taxes on-line has been a huge improvement in collecting taxes, said VandenBerg. And the online tax sale has been good for the county. “I think we collected all but $300 in delinquent taxes last year,” she said.
Working with Monroe County Assessor Randy Noe and Attorney John Pabst over the course of six years, VandenBerg and her staff have cleared up over 125 parcels of old coal and mineral rights land dating back to the 1940s, returning the land back to landowners, abating penalties and interests and getting the small pieces of land back on the county tax rolls.
The treasurer’s office also allows automatic deduct from checking accounts, which basically lets people set up their own escrow accounts, said VandenBerg. The drop box in the courthouse is another popular service offered by the treasurer’s office. Last year the office started e-mail reception of taxes.
With the resignation of one deputy and VandenBerg’s retirement, the office will be shorthanded for awhile, but the staff cross training VandenBerg started a few years ago will help ease the transition.
Over the course of her career, VandenBerg served as Monroe County Conservation Board secretary for 13 years and doubled as treasurer and auditor for a few months when former auditor Jeannie Bettis retired. She was appointed and re-appointed by Governors Branstad and Reynolds to serve on the Iowa Elevator and Escalator Safety Board. “Gov. Reynolds and I had been friends during the time she served as Clarke County Treasurer,” said VandenBerg. As an aside, the board also does amusement rides in Iowa.
She has been a member of the Iowa Treasurer’s Association and Iowa Association of Counties.
She is a member of First Christian Church in Albia and for years worked with her family and its Demry Auction business.
For now she plans to step away from both the treasurer’s business and the auction business, focusing on her three children and seven grandchildren in Knoxville, Albia and Ottumwa, traveling, camping, quilting and reading.