Mills County Courthouse employees said goodbye and offered their well wishes to a familiar face last week.
Janice Johansen, a secretary in the county attorney’s office for more than 25 years, officially entered retirement Friday afternoon after being honored at a reception in the board of supervisors meeting room.
“I worked for five different county attorneys,” Janice said. “I started with Jim Webering and went on the county payroll July 1, 1988. After that, it was Ken Whitacre, Connie Anstey, Ken (Whitacre) again, Marci McClellan and finally Eric (Hansen).
“All of them were good to me It’s been a very rewarding job.”
As a secretary, Janice was often the first contact defense lawyers and the general public had with the county attorney’s office. Her friendly demeanor and professionalism made her a perfect fit for the job, but a good percentage of her time was spent typing and entering reports and complaints for cases the office was taking on. It was that aspect of the job she found most intriguing.
“I really liked the criminal part of the job,” Janice said. “I loved typing the reports on the different incidents. When you’re typing the officers’ and deputies’ testimonies, it’s like you’re in the car with them.”
The nature of her job made Johansen privy to sensitive, confidential and sometimes disturbing information. She learned early in her career the importance of leaving her job at the office when she went home at night.
“Most of the cases we see are not pleasant, but the hardest cases for me are the crimes against children,” she said.
Current Mills County Attorney Eric Hansen said he appreciates Janice’s ability to recognize the good qualities in all people, even those facing criminal charges.
“The one thing that has always amazed me about Janice is that through all the human misery she’s seen in her job, she remained the most positive person I know,” Hansen said.
Hansen said Janice’s experience and legal expertise proved to be valuable over the years.
“She has a great memory,” he said. “Because of all the work she’s done, she’ll occasionally say, ‘Why didn’t we charge them with this?’
“We’re filling Janice’s position, but I don’t think we’ll be able to replace her.”
Over the past quarter century, Janice has seen the number of cases of criminal activity rise significantly in Mills County. Her first year on the job, the Mills County Attorney’s Office handled 270 cases. In 2013, the office worked on 697 cases.
Janice said because of her job, she has a greater appreciation for law enforcement officers, a community she has personal connections with. Her sons, Aaron and Eric, are both officers with the Glenwood Police Department. Eric is police chief and Aaron is a sergeant.
“I have great respect for law enforcement,” she said.
Janice said she’s looking forward to retirement and having more time to spend with her husband, Ronnie, her sons and their families. She has eight grandchildren.