ROSCOMMON – Not many people can say they’ve worked at the same place for 50 years. But Barb can. Not many people can say they are one of seven generations living in the same town. But Barb can.
Barb Stauffer was born and raised in Roscommon, one of the last people born at home in the county. Both her mom and dad were also born and raised here as well.
She knows the family stories, of her Great-grandfather, as well as her Uncle Dave Myer, who were both heads of the county health department. And of her grandfather, Bob Myer.
Her stories of town often reference the past.
“My grandfather, Bob Myer, was the janitor at the school, the CRAF Center now,” Barb said. “They lived just across from the village hall, the old village hall. He used to walk over to the school once or twice a night in the wintertime to put coal in the furnace, to keep the building warm.”
She tells of local politicians and other influential family members, not hard to do when there are seven generations of relatives living in the area.
“My mother’s side of the family and my father’s side of the family, we have had now, with my three little great-grandsons, seven generations live in town. Not many people can say that!” exclaimed Barb.
She is sought out at her place of employment when questions arise.
“I don’t know how many times in the building they’ve said they hate to see me leave. They would say I’m the historian, and if they don’t know the answer to something, they would say ‘Ask Barb because she’s been in the building forever.”
Barb is the Crawford-Roscommon Conservation District (CRCD) Administrator and the Roscommon County Recycling Coordinator. She attended business school after graduating from high school and went to work at Roscommon State Bank the day after graduating.
“I was engaged to Clint when I went to business school. He was working in the area. Our goal was always to stay here. And then we got married right after I got out of business school. I got the job at the bank, and he got the job at the (Roscommon County) road commission. So, the rest is kind of history,” Barb reminisced.
Three children came along, along with the decision to stay at home for a while.
“There was an ad in the paper for this job. It was advertising for a half a day a week. And that’s what I started out with,” said Barb. “It was business, and it was doing outdoor work which I liked, and it was a half a day a week.”
Barb started with the CRCD in May, 1971. It would grow from a half a day a week to some years a full-time job, depending on what project she was working on. For almost 20 years she was also the program administer for what is now the USDA Farm Services Agency, what used to be called the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service.
“It was the financial aid for landowners who wanted to plant trees, to plant crops, plant windbreaks, wildlife habitat, whatever. I helped them get money to do that. And then in the long run we would sell them the trees. I did that for almost 20 years.”
The job started in the basement of the Roscommon County building. And in telling the story of the office changes, you hear the history of the village.
“I started out in the basement here. In this building. That was back when the basement was the commissioners meeting room and all the events were held down there. There was another (little used) entrance. We parked out back and walked down the stairs.”
“Then we moved here, where the old DNR building, which is now the River Center, when it set here. We moved upstairs there. MSU Extension moved upstairs with us. And at that time health dept was moving out.”
With additional funds coming from projects and the state, another move followed.
“We wanted to be ‘individual’ so people didn’t mix us up with MSUE, or the DNR,” she said. “And we wanted to be on the ground floor and accessible to people. So, the Secretary of State moved out across the street – Where Dewey’s (Auto Repair). We call that Bill’s old building, or Ballard’s building. We moved over there. And for years people would come in to get their driver’s license or get their trailer license.”
Once the CRAF Center was established, another move was made.
“I thought ‘Wow, what a great opportunity.’ And they needed the support, financial and people support,” Barb continued.
Barb’s office was downstairs by the entrance, with storage upstairs in the balcony of the gym. When the Conservation District hired a forester, and were given the Gypsy Moth program, offices were also moved upstairs.
Time passed, funding changed, and about 15 years ago the county building underwent renovations.
“They had all these empty rooms, so we moved back here. We circled around.”
Her job has circled around as well. With the hiring of Sherrie Ciaramitaro, Barb is back to working a half a day a week in preparation for full retirement.
What kept Barb at the Conservation District for 50 years were the people and the projects.
“I just like working with people and caring about the environment and our area. The (expo) and tree program has always been big. But mostly just working with people in our area and meeting all the new people who come to the area.”
Her position in life and the community is coming round full circle.
With retirement comes more time to spend at their cottage on the lake and with family that live here. While stepping back from some projects like the Gerrish-Higgins Alumni Association, Barb will still be active in genealogy and the historical society. And her husband, Clint, came out of retirement and has started his third, six-year term as a Roscommon County Road Commissioner.