PEKIN — Four decades ago, Christie Webb answered a call asking whether she'd be interested in applying for a brand new job as secretary to the Tazewell County Board.
Little did she realize at the time that saying yes then would lead to an adult lifetime of public service, including 24 years as Tazewell County clerk, the position from which Webb retired Friday as successor John Ackerman was sworn in.
"It's been very good to me," she said earlier this week in her office as Christmas carols played in the background and as she looked over periodically at a table and boxes of personal effects that needed going through before her retirement could begin.
Public service was never the plan, though she knew about the option from an uncle who was involved. But she quickly discovered that government work intrigued her.
"We all know it's a different animal," she said.
"It's always ever-changing, and I've enjoyed it."
After a stint as board secretary, Webb left to work in her township office for 3 1/2 years.
There, with the joy she knew she took in budgeting work, she was sounded out about making a run for county auditor, a post she won in 1984.
At the time, the office didn't have computers, and budgets were typed out by hand.
"Then the age of computers came, and it made it a little easier to transition into those things," Webb recalls.
Technology would change elections vastly in her time in the clerk's office, from 1994 through today.
"When we got rid of the punch card, that really changed everything," she said.
The office, of course, deals with more than just elections, from public records to marriage licenses. And with that comes "the gratification of being able to help people, from as little as somebody looking for old records," Webb said.
Having a staff that enjoyed offering the same help made the work easy, she said.
"As elected officials and department heads, the buck stops with us. We try to streamline things. But it's the people out there (in the office) that make it pop — always have," she said.
That includes employees who have fun decorating for holidays and taking some pleasure in their work.
"So many people come in here and comment that this is such a friendly office," Webb said.
The decorations haven't just been for holidays, of course. At least not in the clerk's sanctum.
Webb's office featured plenty of family photos, but also a substantial amount of decor featuring Lucille Ball and the old "I Love Lucy" show, paying tribute to a fandom that dates back to her time as a girl.
It's an offshoot of a room in Webb's home decorated in the same theme, and "it just sort of spilled over to here."
Now, it'll spill back home, where she and her husband plan to enjoy their time with grandkids and travel. But Webb is also bracing herself a bit. After years of working, not only will she miss the personal interactions, but she also admitted she's a bit apprehensive over a change many office workers might yearn for: "My phone not ringing, the email not coming in.
"Since we've had cellphones, I figure I'm at everybody's beck and call, 24/7," she said, relating an incident during a recent trip to Italy where she answered a question in the middle of the night. "I'll miss that. I'll pick up my phone and there won't be anything there anymore."
If it does ring again, though, Webb admitted that she's still willing to be involved at the county level if a good opportunity comes along.
"Never say never, you never know what opportunities may arise for you," she said, looking back on a career in which she said among her accomplishments were being both helpful to residents in her office and frugal with taxpayers' money.
"It's just been a great life," Webb said.