A simple conversation while bowling led Dawn Harlow to accept a position in the Lincoln County Clerk's office, and more than 15 years later, Harlow is running for her fourth term as county clerk.
"I bowled with the clerk at the time, and she approached me about working there part-time," Harlow said of that 1994 conversation. "I was managing Mity Mart at the time, thought it was an opportunity and I took it."
Harlow worked in the office for the next six years, and when Doris White decided to retire as county clerk, it just made sense for Harlow to run for the position.
"She encouraged me to run when she decided to retire," Harlow said.
Harlow was first elected in 2000 and took office in 2001. She has served three complete terms, and if elected again this fall - she is running unopposed - will begin serving her fourth term early next year.
Harlow graduated from Lincoln High School in 1992 and has lived in Lincoln ever since.
"I like the small town atmosphere and I haven't found a reason to leave," she said. "I had an opportunity to work for the county, and now I enjoy the job and the benefits are great."
Harlow and her husband Ray have two children, Brittni and Collin, who attend Lincoln USD 298 schools. Brittni will be a freshman at LHS in the fall and Collin is entering his senior year.
Both Brittni and Collin are active in a variety of activities, which keeps the entire family busy year-round.
"There are lots of activities for our kids to do," she said, noting that the kids have played summer baseball and softball, the library reading program, gone to the swimming pool, and Brittni has participated in children's theatre. All that is in addition to their school activities and time spent visiting friends and exploring the town.
"My kids are on the go all the time, and I have a sense that they're safe when they're out," Harlow said. "I like that the kids can ride their bikes around and have friends over."
That is a stark contrast to Harlow's early years as a child in Salina.
"I lived in Salina until I was in the first grade, and when I was in Salina, across the street was the farthest you went away from home," she said.
Harlow later lived in the Juniatta community near Westfall, and eventually moved in with her grandmother in the Shady Bend area, but living in the city of Lincoln is the perfect place for her.
"I used to live in the country, but I don't want to drive gravel and mud roads," she said.
As county clerk, Harlow is in charge of county elections, maintaining the tax roll, setting levys, handling accounts payable for the county, county payroll and human resources, billing for the ambulance service and transfer station, and she also serves as secretary to the board of county commissioners. The clerk's office includes two other full-time employees, Deb Zachgo and Hanna Townley.
When Harlow isn't handling her county clerk duties, she is often found at the Finch Theatre, where she serves as General Manager.
"I book the movies through a broker, and I'm in charge of ensuring we have help during the movies," she said. Her duties also include overseeing the rental of the Finch's meeting room and making sure it is clean and ready for use by community groups.
"It's a popular meeting place," she said.
The Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce holds monthly luncheons at the Finch and it is also used for baby and bridal showers and class reunions.
Between working for the county, managing the Finch Theatre and raising her family, Harlow has found a satisfying career and personal life all within the borders of Lincoln County.