PREBLE COUNTY — At the end of this year, Chris Washington will be retiring as Preble County Clerk of Courts, after 28 years (seven terms) of service.
Washington has actually worked in the Preble County Courthouse for 41 years. He started out in Eaton Municipal Court when it was located on the first floor as an Adult Probation Officer in 1979. He was the first probation officer the court had.
A few years later, David Abruzzo was elected judge of Preble County Common Pleas Court and offered Washington a position as Adult Probation Officer for Common Pleas Court. He worked for Judge Abruzzo for 11 and a half years.
“During my service as probation officer, I worked directly with the Clerk of Courts office. I was actually asked by two of the employees in the Clerk’s office at that time — and they still work for me — if I would consider running against their boss. The election was in 1992,” he said.
“I had opposition in the primary, there were three other candidates. I was successful in that, which put me in the general election against the 12-year incumbent and I beat her by 88 votes. She demanded a recount and the recount resulted in me winning by 112 votes before she ultimately stopped the recount,” Washington recalled.
Washington took office in 1993 and has served since, without break. He faced opposition in 1996, but won and has not faced opposition since. He has maintained the office for 28 years with support from his staff and the community.
“The first thing I did was promise the staff that I would be here as long as they wanted me to be here or as long as they wanted to be here,” he said. “My senior employee has already been with the Clerk’s Office for 33 years. My next senior employee has been with the employees for 31 years and she will be retiring in June of this year. I’ve somewhat fulfilled my obligation to the senior employee.”
As for why he decided to retire, Washington said it was “time.”
“I made a decision that I didn’t want to be employed in the courthouse when I was 70 years old and I will turn 69 years old in September of this year. It is time to let some new blood come in with other ideas,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve done a bad job, but I’m hoping Brionne Reynolds, who is running to replace me, will have some young ideas to move the office forward.”
He added, he will miss his staff “tremendously” after years of seeing their dedication and enjoying their company.
“If you treat your staff with respect, and do the best you can do to be a good employer, they will work hard for you. I believe that with all my heart. They have done a great job for me. I can’t thank them enough and I thank them often for their service to me,” he said.
As for plans for retirement, Washington already works a part-time job, which he plans to continue working into his retirement. He also plans to spend more time with his wife.
Brionne Reynolds is currently running for Clerk of Courts, after shadowing Washington to learn the office. She has worked for Washington at the Title Office for approximately four and a half years. For two years now, she has been working with Washington at the courthouse so she can have experience with both of the jobs.
“The Clerk of Courts has two offices — the Title Office and the Legal Office — that have nothing in common. [Reynolds] is having to learn both jobs,” Washington said. “Fortunately she works for me, so she is able to get prepared.
“I can’t thank the people of Preble County enough for their support. It’s been a pleasure to work here in the courthouse for 41 years and I will definitely miss everyone that comes to this building, even once or twice a year.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH