Karen Spalding was the ‘epitome’ of public service

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By Stephen Lega

Family, friends and community members filled St. Augustine Church Friday to say good-bye to Marion County Clerk Karen Spalding.

“She cared and she showed it. Live up to that,” Fr. Mark Spalding told those gathered for the funeral Mass.

Spalding died Dec. 30 at Norton Hospital in Louisville where she was being treated after suffering a heart attack. She was 57.

Fr. Spalding said he was reminded of the wedding at Cana when he thought of Spalding and how she lived her life. In that story from the Gospel of John, Jesus turns water into wine. That abundance of wine was symbolic of God’s abundant love, Fr. Spalding said.

“That was the love Karen had in her heart … and it flowed out into the world,” he said.

Spalding was in her second term as the county clerk when she passed away, but her career in public service goes back decades. Spalding started working weekends in the county clerk’s office under then-clerk Phillip Jarboe while she was still a senior at Marion County High School in 1974. After graduating, she went to work in the office full-time. In 2006, she was elected to lead that office, and she won re-election in 2010. 

Michelle Reynolds has worked with Spalding since 1983. She said Spalding would do whatever she could to help someone, even if that meant staying open a little late.

“She was very good with the public She would go above and beyond to help,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds added that Spalding was as good a co-worker and boss as anyone could want.

“She’s just so full of life, always smiling and laughing,” Reynolds said. “She was just an all-around good person.”

Marion County Judge/Executive John G. Mattingly said Spalding was fully dedicated to her job and her community. He described Spalding as a gift to the county because of her pleasant demeanor, knowledge of her role as county clerk, experience and love for the people.

He added that he never witnessed her become short or impatient with anyone.

He continued to say that her meticulous care allowed her office to return excess fees, which could be used to fund other county services, to the budget every year. 

“She was the epitome of a public servant,” Mattingly said.

During her tenure as clerk, Spalding worked to redefine the boundaries of the Marion County Board of Education districts so they matched the county’s magisterial districts. She also led the effort to revise the district and precinct boundaries following the 2010 Census.

“Things that hadn’t been done for 30 years, she got done,” Mattingly said.

As hard as Spalding worked on behalf of the community, she also offered a personal touch, he said. She was more than a public servant, according to Mattingly. 

“She beamed when she talked about her family, kids and most recently those gifts of grandchildren,” Mattingly said. “Her strong faith and sense of family were evident in the compassionate way she treated all who walked in her office door.”

Spalding’s death leaves a void that will be difficult for the county to fill, according to Mattingly.

“We were and are all better off because of Karen Spalding, and going forward, it will be difficult to find someone that can provide the same level of dedicated services she provided,” he said.

Spalding is survived by her mother, Cecilia  Daugherty Spalding; her husband, David “Doc”; and her children, Shawna Richerson and her husband Ronnie, Scott and his wife Lauren, and Patrick; four grandchildren; and three brothers.