JERRY CITY — LuAnn Vanek rode at sunset after retiring from local schools in Elmwood.
Vanek and her husband Craig have moved west to their new home in Apache Junction, Arizona.
Vanek has spent more than 40 years as school treasurer, the last 12.5 at Elmwood.
She began her career at Arcadia in 1981. After that, she worked as acting treasurer at Van Buren, worked for Arlington Schools and the Wyandot County Board of Education, and spent 22.5 years with the school district Sycamore Mohawk.
“I love numbers,” Vanek said of why she became an accountant. “I took every high school math class I could…numbers is just my thing.”
After high school, she flipped pizzas at Napoli in Findlay and worked at the Budd Company in North Baltimore.
When Vanek decided to go back to school, she earned her associate’s degree in accounting from Owens Community College and during her final week of exams she was told to call Arcadia Schools for a interview.
“So that was pretty cool,” she recalled.
Vanek never got a bachelor’s degree, but back when she started, that didn’t matter.
“To get a treasurer’s license, they now want four-year degrees,” she said.
The state issued the license in 1984, then mandated treasurers to take continuing education courses in order to renew a license.
“But since I got mine before this new rule, I’ve been protected for all these years,” Vanek said.
However, she continued to take continuing education classes to stay current with politics.
She explained that by the time she became school treasurer in 1981, Arcadia had just added computers to its offices and state software that all treasurers were required to use. This allowed him to switch from manual payroll to electronic payroll.
Vanek said she and Mohawk staff toured the new Elmwood facility when that district was in the planning phase for its own facility.
She has worked with 10 different superintendents over the past 40 years.
“All the superintendents I have worked with have pleased me. And then Tony (Borton) came (to Elmwood), and we were just a good team.
Vanek said she was going to work 30 years before retiring, but the opportunity arose to join Elmwood when she was 28. She lived in Wayne and decided to give the district at least five years.
“I loved this place. It’s a great neighborhood. I live in the community and it feels like a natural fit to stay,” Vanek said. “I was like, I don’t know when I’m going to retire, but then I finally understood, it’s time.”
Now she and her husband are going to be snowbirds in Arizona.
They have a daughter and three grandchildren who live 10 miles away in Mesa.
They keep their house in Wayne to go back there in the summer. Vanek said she would keep her treasurer’s license in case, when she returns to Ohio in May, another school district needs an acting treasurer.
Craig Vanek, who is also retired, owns a Harley-Davidson which he transports to Arizona. The two go on a trip, to Niagara Falls, UP Michigan and Tennessee, but not much longer than eight hours.
“You can only ride for so long,” she said.
While in Arizona, she said the couple will take their RZR off-road vehicles and hit the trails.
They bought their Arizona home a year ago in anticipation of the move, and its timing was perfect as housing prices skyrocketed afterward.
The couple have two sons, each with two grandchildren. One son is at Wayne and one at Bascom.
“That’s why I don’t want to give up my house to Wayne,” Vanek said.
She spends her free time baking and decorating cakes for friends, including for Borton’s three children when they got married.
“It’s just a hobby I do for friends. I do not sell them outside my home.
The couple keep busy because Craig always wants to go, go, go, Vanek said, whether it’s shooting, riding a motorcycle or taking the ATV to Michigan’s sand dunes.
They bought a toy transport vehicle to make the trip west with their motorcycles, two dogs and two cats.
The district hired Jenalee Niese to fill her role. Niese previously worked at Defiance High School, Four County Career Center and Holgate Local Schools.
Vanek said his advice to Niese was to make sure spending is done wisely.
“I’m proud to make sure we’re financially stable,” Vanek said in his final week at Elmwood. “I’m going to miss this challenge.”