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The tax woman goeth

Treasurer Bonnie Namenuk will retire early to protect her PERS investment

by: Photo By Troy Foster - Bonnie Namenuk is the first major public official in Jefferson County to cash out with her PERS savings prematurely.

News Editor
   April 23, 2003 — Since Bonnie Namenuk was elected in 1988, she's heard it all.
   As Jefferson County's Treasurer and appointed Tax Collector, residents haven't always been happy to meet her.
   "One guy threatened to kill me, then the next week came back and asked me out to dinner," Namenuk says. "I said it was sort of a personal policy that I don't eat with people that want to shoot me."
   Come June 30, Namenuk won't have to deal taxpayers, whether they're among the friendly "99.9 percent" or those on the list she's given the sheriff during the past 14 years.
   At 58, she's retiring two years before her fourth term expires to protect her PERS investment and enjoy life while she's still young.
   Despite her strange taxpayer stories, she said she'll miss the regular office visits.
   "Taxpayers are always fun," Namenuk said. "They're always unhappy but they're always good to work with.
   "When you take people's money, it doesn't mater what it's for. You're the bad guy."
   Namenuk began working for the county in 1977 as a tax deputy. She succeeded Elva Townsend in 1988 as treasurer, and has since been responsible for collecting revenue for every district and municipality in the county.
   Namenuk grew up in Culver and moved to Madras in 1984. She has been a widow since 1973, when her husband, Clarence, died in a hunting accident when their three daughters were young. She gave up an upholstery business five years later to work for the county.
   "I've worked my whole life, and it's been a good life," Namenuk says. "And actually, I feel pretty good about retiring. I'm still young enough that I can still do some fun things."
   The experienced treasurer says PERS and the Legislature's recent actions to reform it threatened her retirement savings.
   "It's just too much of a gamble," Namenuk says. "If it hadn't been for that I would have stayed and finished my term."
   Namenuk has recommended one of her employees, Deena Goss, to fill her role in the interim. It is up the the county's Board of Commissioners to appoint a successor.
   In retirement, Namenuk says she won't have time to sit around the house. She's already been offered several part-time jobs and she'll continue to serve as a volunteer in several capacities.
   Namenuk belongs to Kiwanis, HAABLA, is a board member of the local Oregon Cultural Trust group and continues to serve as a volunteer with the Victim's Assistance program.
   More recently, she joined the Madras-area Community Action Team, a nonprofit group committed to addressing poverty in the community. That new role promises to keep her busy with familiar tasks.
   "At my first meeting, they asked me to be treasurer," Namenuk says. "Surprise, surprise."