City Assessor Joan Spencer Reflects on 40-Year Career

Spencer Retired in Late August After Forty Years with City of Marshfield

Earlier this month, City Assessor Joan Spencer officially began her retirement after forty years serving the City of Marshfield and its residents. (Read more about the role of the City Assessor here.)

A proud Marshfield native, Spencer has always enjoyed the city and its people.

“I like Marshfield, I always have,” said said. “We have what have what I call a very bright community.”

After graduating from Columbus High School, Spencer attended the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point, attending for business but taking a mixture of classes and courses. After college, she worked in psychology for a few years before staying home to care for her young family. When she was ready to return to the workforce, she wanted to try something different.

“At that point, I had a lot of background and experience in a lot of things. I wanted to get more into a technology field, when a City job opened up,” said Spencer. “It had health insurance and I had two kids and it was what dropped into place at the right time.”

Spencer started as a secretary for the City Assessor in 1977, her training consisting of reading large binders filled with code and other information.

“The Head Assessor told me, ‘When you’re done reading this, you’ll know your job.’ It was the dryest, boringest stuff to read,” she said. “I don’t think I’d ever do that to anybody, but there is something to be said for reading all of it because there’s a lot of stuff in that book. It’s the ABC’s of assessing.”

One of Spencer’s first tasks was drawing the City, creating what would become the “Bible” for the department and the model for future City GIS mapping. With her knowledge and talent, it wasn’t long before Spencer worked her way up through the department, eventually being named City Assessor in 1986.

“By then, I knew every job in the department inside out,” she said.

At the time, there was no electronic software in the City, so everything was evaluated and calculated by hand.

“Everything was done manually, including printing tax bills. The old carbon paper, it was a nightmare. These days, nobody would deal with that type of stuff,” said Spencer. “Today, you can get so much more done in the same amount of time. It’s absolutely phenomenal- building your own programs, files- it’s very nice.”

Though technology definitely makes the job easier, Spencer did appreciate the prior collaboration that was necessary for success.

“When everything was done manually and people were more dependent on each other for the overall product, there was more of a friendliness there,” said Spencer. “During those days, everybody knew everybody in City hall. Everyone that worked there, you knew them- all the way up to the Mayor. It was a great working atmosphere, kind of like another family.”

Though she won’t be there to experience it, Spencer hopes that the new City Hall can help recreate the family atmosphere that existed in the original Tower Hall building.

Spencer enjoying retirement with a cup of coffee at The Daily Grind in Marshfield.

Spencer is looking forward to retirement, especially being on her own clock, spending more time with her family (husband, Dan, two daughters and six grandchildren), and having the ability to continue to assist other assessors through her work in professional organizations.

“That way I can contribute in some way or another, keep my mind going,” she said, recalling those who helped her in her early career days and happy to be able to give back now that she’s the expert.

“I know so much on how to do things, organize things, I’d probably like to take on a project here and there to work with something, get it set up so someone can work with it easier. Those are the types of things I like to do,” she said.

Most of all, Spencer said she will miss the people. “I like dealing with the people that live here and work here,” she said. “There is an intelligence factor that makes it an enjoyable experience. For me it was just a pleasure to be able to help people and deal with them. I like the people here. That’s what kept me here.”

After four decades working for the City of Marshfield, Spencer is proud of the results she leaves behind.

“Working for the city has been absolutely awesome,” she said .“I can honestly say I left the city better than I found it. That was my goal. And if everybody has that goal, things can only get better.”

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