Jeanne Johnson retires from fair secretary job 2011.08.17

Written by David Green.

Jeanne_Johnson_2011The 19th-century English writer Rudyard Kipling once wrote, "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs . . . you'll be a Man, my son!" 

You also might qualify to be Secretary of the Fulton County Fair Board.

Jeanne Johnson of Fayette has held the secretary’s position for 19 years, handling its many responsibilities with the calm of a Zen master.    

In fact, so challenging is her job, that when she told the Board in April 2009 that she'd like to retire after the 2011 Fair, the Board immediately began a search for her replacement. When Board members found Sue Whitaker of Swanton, they hired Sue before the 2010 Fair so she could work with Jeanne for two full years and two full Fairs before Jeanne departed.

Jeanne didn't have the benefit of a long breaking-in period when she started the job.

"When I began on December 1, 1992, the Board decided the first thing I should do is 'computerize' the Fair in time for the 1993 Fair," Jeanne recalled. "It was a big job because nothing was on the computer at that point. I had to have all the recordkeeping and entries up and running in a matter of months.

“I worked a lot of hours and had a couple of college students help me, but honestly, I don't know how we got it all done,“ she aid. “It was a miracle."

Many years and many changes

In her nearly two decades as Fair Board Secretary, Jeanne has seen the Fair grow—and along with it, her job responsibilities.

"In 1993, attendance was 179,890," she reported. "There were roughly 6,600 entries in the Fair and fewer than 630 entrants.

“In 2010, attendance was 282,000, and over 680 people entered more than 7,200 entries. For several years, we had over 9,100 entries by more than 740 entrants."

The dramatic increase in Fair Week camping and off-season rentals since 1992 has increased Jeanne's duties and demands for other forms of recordkeeping have grown, too.

Over the years, Ohio's auditor has asked country fairs for more information, and insurance paperwork has increased. Fortunately, the computer has enabled Jeanne and her crew to keep better track of information.

Although the Fair itself lasts just seven days, being Fair Board Secretary is definitely a year-round job.

During Fair Week, Jeanne spends up to 16 hours a day in the Fair office where she oversees a group of equally calm and capable women who assist her.

Essential to the Fair's growth

"Jeanne took the Fair from the shoe box stage to the computer age," said Carl Buehrer, president of the Fulton County Fair Board.

"Whenever she was asked to do something she said, 'Sure, I can do that.'  She stepped in, did the work, and never complained.”

“As the Fair has grown, she's picked up more and more responsibilities and made a lot of good suggestions,” said Buehrer. “She's been essential to our growth.”

Buehrer explained that Jeanne's ability to treat everyone with respect not only helped her deal with people, it also made her easy to work with. In the 19 years they worked together, he cannot recall their ever having a big disagreement.

Buehrer also thinks that giving the Fair Board two years' notice before retiring says a lot about Jeanne.

"How many people who want to retire would agree to spend two years training their replacement?" he said. "But that's just the kind of individual Jeanne is. She will be greatly missed."   

Time to retire

Jeanne is retiring, and in her own words, "Because I’m ready."  

She also wants to spend more time with her family—husband Curt, a Fair Board member; sons Cris and Craig; daughter Kayla; and her five grandchildren.  

"I want more time, period," she laughed. "I'm tired of hurrying through all the things I want to do to get to the things I have to do.  Besides, I never intended to stay on the job this long."

So why did she? 

"The Fair is a very positive thing," she stressed.  "It's a fun place and a nice Fairgrounds. And I've met some interesting people.  

"Fair Board Secretary is a really good job."

And Jeanne Johnson has done a really good job doing it.  


Fulton County Fair Board Secretary: Select Responsibilities

  • Attend board meetings, compose minutes
  • Prepare payroll twice-monthly
  • Pay taxes: state, school, payroll; file Form 941 quarterly
  • Post income, pay invoices
  • Bank, as needed
  • Maintain capital expenditure/purchase order report
  • Invoice stall rent/maintain stall rent report
  • Balance books and reconcile bank statements 
  • Write new policies and/or update present policies, as needed.
  • Keep camping payment list as checks are posted
  • Answer phone; return all calls and emails
  • Schedule grounds and building rentals, prepare cost proposals, and write contracts.
  • Prepare rental reports quarterly
  • Meet with rental groups at Fairgrounds during rental
  • Deal with daily mail; sort for board members, if needed
  • Prepare monthly schedule for caretakers
  • Maintain five-year schedule calendar
  • Keep current on labor laws, signage posting.
  • Order restroom and other supplies, as needed.
  • Keep digital sign current with announcements and activities
  • Maintain equipment list, new buildings, and keep current with insurance company
  • Purchase vehicle and trailer licenses
  • Input all entries for all exhibitors and racers; pay all premiums and prizes
  • Work with businesses for sponsorships
  • Edit, proof, arrange for printing of Fair Book
  • Maintain and update computer programs with Sonit Systems 
  • Keep website current 
  • Develop advertising plan with ad agency
  • Keep all records necessary for biannual audits and meet with auditor during audit, as needed.
  • Maintain contact with entertainment agency for follow-up on contracted acts
  • Taste all Fair Foods to make sure they meet Fulton County Standards*

*Jeanne reported this with her tongue -- and deep-fried veggies -- in her cheek. 

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