NEW WINDSOR — After 31 years of sitting at a desk filtering through stacks of county government paperwork, Peggy Conrad is looking forward to a different kind of assignment this summer.
"I expect to be sitting by my pool, with a book in my hands. I'm a real sun-worshiper," the 50-year-old New Windsor resident said.
Conrad, secretary to Commissioner President Donald I. Dell, will retire April 1.
"I look forward to having some time to myself, as well as spending time with my family."
Conrad's three-decade tour around county government began as a part-time stint in the tax officein 1961.
"When I first went to work, I worked part time six months out of the year to send tax bills. That's back in the days when we did everything by hand," she recalled. "I also did relief on the switchboard, while doing the tax bills."
Conrad continued part time through the early 1960s, working four days a week for three different departments.
"I spent two days in the county commissioners office, one day in planning and one day working for the county treasurer," said Conrad, who worked as a secretary.
"I kept this schedule until I went to work full time in 1964 for the county roads department, which is now known as the Public Works Department.
While Conrad has seen the county go through many changes in her 31-year career, she cites growth as the most obvious.
Not only has the county's population grown but so has the number of people needed to provide services.
Working originally on the first floor of what is now the Court House Annex on Court Place in Westminster, Conrad recalls being part of acounty staff that numbered no more than 40 people. Only about 53,000residents called Carroll home.
"In the 1960s, we were all able tohave Christmas dinner in one room," she said. "One of the commissioners' wives would fix the turkey, and everybody else would bring a covered dish. We would sit down at one table together and have Christmasdinner."
Those days were left behind when the heart of county government moved to the County Office Building in 1975.
"When we moved to the new building, that was to accommodate growth. Now we are finding ourselves outgrowing that building."
Almost 700 people work for the county now; nearly 130,000 people live in Carroll.
While Conrad has for the most part enjoyed her 31 years as a county employee,there have been occasions that have tested her loyalty.
In 1972, Hurricane Agnes assaulted the county, leaving many roads damaged and washed out.
"That was something," Conrad said. "The federal government moved into our office so they could assist us in estimating the damage to the roads. We needed to get flood relief so that the roads could be repaired."
The confusion and paperwork necessary to do the job was not only tedious, but made for crowded quarters in the the county's Public Works Department.
"The federal people spent about two months in our office. I remember saying if another flood ever came through the county, I wouldn't be around to do this job again," shesaid.
Conrad had an opportunity to make good on her threat in 1975 when Hurricane Eloise took a less destructive tour through Carroll.
But a little older and wiser, Conrad found her first bout with disaster gave her the necessary experience.
"Of course, this time itwas different," she said. "We knew what we were doing, because we had already gone through it with the other hurricane."
Needless to say, there are many county employees who are glad Conrad decided to stick around.
Dell, for one, praised his secretary's reliability andefficiency.
"Peggy is an all-around outstanding person. She doesn't mind taking the extra hours to get the job done. We have a very pleasant relationship, and she will be missed by many."
County Planning Director Edmund G. "Ned" Cueman remembered the first time he met Conrad in 1971 when he came to work for the county.
"I loved her to death," he said. "If you ever wanted to know anything, Peggy was the one you went to. She is so dependable and constant. She's the perfect role model for a public servant; there are none better than Peggy Conrad."
Linda Bostian, a secretary in the Office of the Comptroller, knew Conrad before they became co-workers in 1968.
"I had always looked up to Peggy. She was ahead of me in school, and our families knew each other," said Bostian, who is also from New Windsor. "WhenI came to work in 1968, I would go to Peggy when I needed help in the secretarial field. She is a very well-organized person. She is always so cheerful and friendly with everyone."
Conrad admits that even though she is looking forward to her retirement, she will miss the friends she has made.
"Working for the county has been a wonderfulexperience. I am glad that I was able to work here as long as I have, but now it's time for me to move on," she said. "I have enjoyed thepeople. They have been just wonderful all through the years. I have no regrets."
Conrad said that she looks forward to traveling with her husband, Grover, once he retires from his sales position at Cox Ford in Hampstead.
"I don't know if he'll ever retire. He has already retired once, but decided to go back to work," she said. "That's OK, because I want to spend time with my mother, and I know I will be doing a lot of baby-sitting this summer."
The Conrads have two daughters, Tammy and Karen, and three grandchildren, Pam, 7, Eric, 5, and Nicholas, 4.
And, to add to the baby-sitting duties, Tammy and Karen are pregnant, and are expecting to deliver two new grandchildrento the Conrads sometime this summer.