After garnering over 61 percent of the voters' approval in the November general election, Susanne Straub Schneider has settled in over the last few months as the county's new prothonotary.
Susanne originally started out in the second deputy's position within the office, a post that served as a stepping stone for greater things to come.
"When the second deputy position became available, [Elk County Treasurer Peggy Schneider] asked me if I would be interested," Susanne said. "I interviewed with the prothonotary at the time, David Frey, and I was hired as second deputy, that was in 2010.
"In the beginning of 2011, [Frey] announced that he was going to retire and that got everyone's wheels spinning."
With three deputies working in the office, their collective general consensus was that it would be better to have one of the deputies be elected prothonotary rather than a person with no office experience.
"We kind of talked amongst ourselves and I was the only one interested in undertaking the campaign because it really is an undertaking, putting yourself out there, and I thought that since I worked in the office I had a good grasp of how things are supposed to be done," Susanne said. "I thought it would be in everyone's best interests that someone 'on the inside' got that 'promotion,' I guess you could call it."
One of the more deciding factors in running for county office was the positive influence it would have on her family.
"My family factored in a lot because it would benefit them," Susanne said. "I was supported by my husband and I very specifically remember that day when I said, 'You know what?… I think I'm going to do this.'
"I remember my husband saying he'd support me no matter what, and we both knew that it probably pretty much meant a promotion and a benefit to the family. I was hoping for a career and something that I can carry out for the rest of my life."
On the night of the election, a "runaway" was the furthest thing from her mind.
"In the beginning, it wasn't a runaway as some of the smaller precincts came in, it was kind of close," Susanne recalled. "My husband and I had poured our hearts and souls into it, so seeing the early numbers that were close were really nerve-wracking.
"I didn't really know that if things didn't work out if I was even going to have a job. Either you get a promotion or really you're in limbo."
Susanne remembers surrounding herself with friends and family on election night, and sitting on the floor crouching down while the early numbers came in.
"It was going to be a party regardless because it was a great team effort to run the campaign and I wanted to surround myself with all the people that had helped me," Susanne said. "It's nerve-wracking because your life is on the line."
She began to loosen a bit as the margin grew in her favor.
"I felt like I was able to breathe again," Susanne said. "As the gap started to grow I think I was able to stand up again and start pacing around. It's actually not even over that night because there's the period of time where the count is finalized, but it ended by nearly two thousand."
Now settling into her position, Susanne remembers her original desire to be prothonotary.
"I had dealt with the prothonotary's office before and as a dual office, the prothonotary's office has the civil side-- the Clerk of Courts is the criminal side. I had actually been on the other side of the counter before going through some civil procedures myself," Susanne said. "Our office deals with divorces, custodies, protection from abuse on the civil side, so many times a lot of people are coming in trying to file things on their own and it can be a scary place to be.
"I know that because I've been on the other side filing things and I just kind of felt like God put me there because I had the compassion and understanding on the other side of that counter. I know what they've been through and now I can help them, and have that empathy-- where they are, how they're feeling when they come into our office."
Joining Susanne throughout her campaign trail were her husband, Bradley Schneider; two sons, Jayden (9), and Jonah (3); her parents, Daniel and Cindy Straub; in-laws, Mike and Dorothy Schneider; along with her sisters, aunts, uncles, and friends, and fellow county elected officials, Straub Brewery, and local newspapers and radio stations.
Susanne is supported in the office by first deputy Candace Frey, second deputy (criminal) Darlene Rhoades, and second deputy (civil) Jessica Schutz.
Pick up a copy of the Tuesday, June 5, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.