MADISON — As she sat in a chair in the waiting area of the Boone County Circuit Clerk’s Office at the Boone County Courthouse on Dec. 30, Sue Ann Zickefoose experienced a moment that made her retirement all too real.
“It is really hitting me right now in this moment,” she said as her staff scurried to make her retirement party one to remember. “It’s bittersweet for me. I’ll miss these girls and I’ll miss all these people who are always so kind.”
Zickefoose, in her third term, will see her seat as circuit clerk occupied by Deputy Clerk Anita Perdue, who was appointed to the post by Circuit Judges William Thompson and Jay Hoke.
“She was instrumental to me when I first became judge, especially in helping with the grand jury process,” Thompson said of Zickefoose. “Her office has always run smoothly and efficiently, and I was especially grateful for her help with starting e-filing in Boone County. She will be missed and I wish her the best in her retirement.“
In her office, Zickefoose reflected on her red, white and blue color scheme — including the paint on the walls.
In 2004, when she began her first term, commissioners told her they’d support a fresh paint job and some upgrades for her working space.
“The walls hadn’t been painted in 30 years and my office was being used for storage at the time,” she said.
Zickefoose added with a laugh, “Commissioners told me not to ask them for anything ever again.”
A 1959 graduate of Scott High School, she has worked with numbers her entire career, beginning with her work in finance in the automobile business and on the clerical side of a once-booming coal mining industry. In all, she’s punched a time clock for three decades as a state employee.
Through her work at the courthouse, she played a significant role in bringing the statewide e-filing and case management system for circuit clerks to Boone County, which provides a streamlined process for filing documents — conserving environmental resources and time.
“I think that my biggest contribution to the county is the absolutely wonderful staff that is in place right now,” she said. “They are very productive, smart and fantastic county employees.”
A Democrat, Zickefoose said she always had a keen interest in politics and, after losing a close race in her first attempt at the seat, she knew she’d come back for another try.
“I don’t think the other candidates were worried much about me,” she said. “I flew under the radar and snuck the ball in for a touchdown.”
Her work in the circuit clerk’s office began in 1984 when she worked for six years for then-clerk Sonny Howell, who later served as the mayor of Madison before his passing in March of 2020.
Zickefoose, 79, armed with a genuinely kind demeanor and a keen sense of humor, said she didn’t want to keep the seat for too long.
“I know that people say that I am getting older, and I don’t let those things bother me,” she said. “I am the one who had to decide when the time was right to retire and I feel that the time is now. The last thing I want to do is be a person who holds on for too long. I’ve had a great career. I’m proud of it and I’m happy with my decision.”
She said COVID-19 and the susceptibility of those in her age group played a role in her decision to retire now.
“I feel pretty good, but at my age it is a concern,” she said. “I feel like our office has managed it (pandemic) as well as we can and I feel safe in here, but it is a factor for me at this time. I’ve had two major back surgeries and some days I feel that.”
The retiring circuit clerk said she’d like to be remembered as a public servant who connected people to services and also served as a conduit for other elected officials to communicate.
“I’ve always wanted to connect people and I strived for that,” she said.
Zickefoose said Perdue is the perfect choice to serve in her seat for the next two years to fulfill her term.
“Anita has always shown the desire to learn and she volunteers for conferences and any opportunity to advance our office,” she said. “She’ll be a fantastic representative of Boone County and a great resource for our citizens.”
Boone County Commissioner Brett Kuhn said Zickefoose will be missed.
“Sue Ann is an icon in the Democratic Party (Boone County),” he said. “If you needed a contact in Charleston or in Washington, she could take care of it for you. She will be missed, but I’m sure she will be active in politics — it’s in her blood.”
The lover of American history said she looks forward to participating in more church-related activities and spending time and traveling with her daughter, Dr. Lisa Beck, who serves as the assistant superintendent for Boone County Schools.
“We like to travel and I want to do that once we’ve moved past this pandemic,” she said. “I’m not one to sit idle, so I’m sure I’ll stay busy. I feel very blessed for the life I’ve lived.”
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry @hdmediallc.com or at 304-307-2401.