CIRCLEVILLE - It's been a rough year for the Pickaway County Veterans Service Office, but its new executive director is determined to move the agency in a positive direction for the sake of local veterans.
Margi Pettibone, a long-time employee of the local VSO, has been settling in after taking the helm of the agency effective June 1.
It hasn't taken much settling, though, according to Ron Clifton, president of the Veterans Service Commission, which is one of the reasons the board found her a perfect fit for the job.
"Of the candidates we had, she was the most well-rounded person, and she already knew the job," Clifton said. "Not that someone else couldn't have learned it, but she knew what it consisted of, and we didn't have to train her."
Clifton said Pettibone's popularity with local veterans and her ability to get along well with people in and out of the office also weighed heavily in her favor.
Pettibone replaces former executive director Rebecca Lee, who was terminated from the position in December after an internal investigation into charges of misconduct in office.
Pettibone's promotion also comes on the heels of a complaint against the Veterans Service Commission in Pickaway County Common Pleas Court requesting the removal of Clifton, Tom Tootle and Leroy Fout from the board. The complaint was voluntarily dismissed without prejudice by the signers in a document filed May 26 by their attorney, William Archer.
"The staff here has been wonderful through some tough times," Pettibone said. "What I'd like to focus on now is a positive outreach to all the veterans of Pickaway County, to make them aware that we are here and of all the things we do."
Those things include offering financial assistance, transportation to VA appointments and processing of claims, among others.
"I hope we can project a positive 'we're here for you' feel," she said.
Pettibone, who resides in the Lockbourne area, is a veteran herself, having served in the U.S. Army at the end of the Vietnam era from 1974 to 1976.
"I enlisted into service, which was not the most popular thing to do back then," she said. "I was trained in telecommunications, but when I was stationed in Germany, they needed a company clerk, so that's what I did."
Pettibone has worked for the local Veterans Service Office for the past 12 years, beginning her career at the front desk. She then moved into a position as an investigator and then a county veterans service officer, both state and nationally accredited.
The VSO has made positive strides over the years, but Pettibone said she is still amazed at the number of veterans who don't even realize the local office exists.
"I don't think it ever gets out there enough," she said. "We did an outreach program in November and had 134 new Pickaway County veterans in our office who didn't even realize we were here. We're hoping to do another program like that this fall."
The local office, located in the county annex building on West Main Street, will see a few additional changes in the near future with the retirement of Sharon Free, office coordinator, and the hiring of a new county veterans service officer to take Pettibone's previous position.
While the VSC board will be advertising soon for the new veterans service officer, Free's replacement has already been selected and is being trained prior to her last day on Friday. Sheila Crum will take Free's place at the front desk of the Circleville office.
As the dust settles, though, and people move into their new positions, Pettibone said veterans should feel confident their needs are in good hands.
"If they have any questions, they should feel free to call, come in and meet us or make an appointment if they think they have a claim," she said. "We're here to help veterans."
The Pickaway County Veterans Service Office can be reached at 740-474-3650.