Osceola County clerk retires after 30 years

Karen Bluhm: It's time for someone else to do it'

Osceola County Clerk Karen Bluhm (left) will officially retire at the end of the month after 29 1/2 years as County Clerk. (Pioneer file photo)

Osceola County Clerk Karen Bluhm (left) will officially retire at the end of the month after 29 1/2 years as County Clerk. (Pioneer file photo)

REED CITY — After decades of serving the Osceola County community, county clerk Karen Bluhm will be retiring at the end of June. 

Bluhm’s career in government began in 1977 where she worked in the county treasurer’s office for 15 years before she ran as county clerk in 1992. She has now been elected for eight terms over the course of her almost 30-year career as county clerk and has logged over 40 years in government. 

As county clerk, Bluhm is kept busy most days with different projects that operate under her direction. With over 900 statutes that she has authority within, Bluhm oversees a wide array of government responsibilities including marriage licenses, birth records, death records, concealed weapons permit alongside managing the payroll. 

One of the largest things that Bluhm does as county clerk is work as the chief election official for the county. Bluhm has managed all the precincts in Osceola County, making sure that the voting process goes smoothly for each voting district. It also has provided the largest learning curve for Bluhm. 

Bluhm said people who have questions over the elections or want to change how elections are run should work as an election official to see everything that goes on behind the scenes during an election. 

“My concern is they're not thinking about the people that are doing the grunt work. In the scenes, the local townships, the precinct inspectors, there's a reason they're doing what they are. What people think they see and what's really going on are two different realities. I encourage those people, the doubtful people, to join us. Sign up to be an inspector, let us train you to spend time in a precinct.” 

Bluhm has been a part of a large technological evolution in the voting industry. When Bluhm first took over, there were precincts that she managed that were still counting votes via paper ballots. Over the course of time, she was able to switch those precincts to lever machine voting. Over the years, even that has had to change. 

Bluhms career has had many highlights over the course of the 29-plus years in office, including when she was named Clerk of the year in 2008 by the Michigan Association of County Clerks. She served as president for the Michigan Association of County Clerks before that.

“I've never thought of myself as anybody real important. I'm just me, and this is how we were raised. You went to work every day, and if you didn't, you better have a darn good reason, dad said. If you were sick, you better be really sick. So, work ethic means a lot to me. Being recognized for your work ethic is important to me. I never thought I'd rub shoulders with any legislators anywhere in the state. They're just people. So being recognized by them at the time, that was quite an accomplishment.”

But it wasn’t just the recognition that was a highlight of her career. Her family always supported her throughout her endeavors, with her husband's support, she was also able to raise four kids throughout her career. 


Bluhm's husband first planted the seed on retirement earlier this year. After retiring seven years ago himself, he gave Bluhm advice on when it will be a suitable time to think about retirement. 

“He's always told me ‘Don't retire until you're ready. You'll know.’ And finally, one night, I don't know, January, February, he says ‘I think you're ready.’ I thought I missed a meeting that I was supposed to be going to. I said ‘What do you mean? Ready for what? I was supposed to go someplace?’ and he said, ‘I think you're ready to retire.’ Then the seed grew.” 

Bluhm explained more in depth her decision to retire, stating that after the seed was planted, she realized it was time to go. 

“I love what I do most days. Anybody will tell you that. But it's time for someone else to do it. And there is somebody out there who is more than capable of doing it. So let them do that. I want to travel more with my husband, we’ll camp for the summer. I found out I'm going to be helping with childcare during summer vacation for a 6-year-old. It's just things like that. It's more family oriented.” 

Bluhm is not sure exactly what she will be doing once she retires, stating that when her husband asked the same thing, the only thing she told him is that she will not be going in to work. She does plan, however, to visit with her children and grandchildren more often.

“I've got four kids scattered. I've got one in Clarkston, one in Oxford, one in the Big Rapids area and one in Lowell. All of them have children. I want to be able to go to Clarkston or Oxford and watch my kids compete in whatever activity they're in. There was an award ceremony last night for the 13-year-old grandson. I want to be able to know that I don't have to drive 2 1/2, three hours down there then turn around and come right back. I want to spend more quality time with them.” 

Bluhm will officially retire at the end of the month, with Tracy Cochran being appointed to fill out the rest of Bluhm’s term.