County court ‘go-to person’ heading to retirement

BEDFORD – At the top the Bedford County courthouse, up the freight elevator that sometimes opens a floor early to reveal accused criminals awaiting trial, is Margaret “Peg” Koenig’s domain.

Or was – until Friday, when the county’s veteran clerk retired to her Fishertown home. For more than 15 years, Koenig was the face of the county commissioners and an authority at most every level of local government.

“A lot of things, you rely on Peg. She’s just the go-to person,” Commissioners Chairman Kirt Morris said three days before Koenig’s retirement. “Her knowledge was invaluable.”

In a rural county without a large bureaucracy, Koenig educated new lawmakers, dealt with the public and, for 12 years, oversaw elections.

Serving through five county administrations, Koenig developed an intimate knowledge of the rules and regulations that affect local officials every day. With newly elected commissioners receiving just one state training session before they take office, she said, much of their on-the-ground education falls on courthouse staff.

“It usually takes a year, year-and-a-half, two years to get them up to speed,” Koenig said.

That’s as much as half of a commissioner’s four-year term.

“It’s an eye-opener,” she said.

And without a separate elections director for more than a decade, the weighty task of ballot oversight fell on Koenig’s shoulders, as well. Municipal election years could be chaotic, with scores of candidates vying for ballot spots.

She also was responsible for the infrequent but time-sensitive open-records requests from reporters and citizens, and every week, she composed and sent out the commissioners’ agenda to a bevy of journalists under the tag, “Here you go, gang.”

Sitting at the front desk in the commissioners’ office, Koenig was front and center when angry and confused residents lodged sometimes bizarre complaints.

“We’ve had to deal with some off people. There’s some crazy ones,” she said.

“You’re really not sure if they’re from this planet,” Elections Director Kelly Detwiler interjected.

Working for decades in insurance, Koenig, a Johnstown native, eventually found herself in Bedford, where she saw a classified ad for a county clerk job.

“They said, ‘Must have a working knowledge of county government.’ Well, I had no clue. I had no idea who the commissioners were,” she said. But when the job went unfilled, she gave it a try.

“I submitted 10 resumes. One a day,” she said. “I said, ‘I’m a registered Republican and most of my friends are Democrats, so I guess that makes me bipartisan.'”

Now, 15 years later, she’s been replaced by Katherine Davies, a Bedford native, Army veteran and reservist.

Koenig looks forward to retirement but might “go out of my mind, looking for something part-time,” she said, laughing.