Julie Striggle, Northwest Allen County Schools’ former treasurer, capped off 28 years with the district last year, but her retirement follows a lifetime membership to the NACS community.
“Julie was great with people and also was outstanding with handling the financial details for the district,” NACS Business Manager Bill Mallers said. “She was very dedicated to NACS and committed to keeping the business operations in good order. She will be missed.”
Striggle retired in 2019 after working in the district office since 1992, and has continued to train her successors through this year.
“It’s hard to have a job that you can hop out of bed with,” Striggle said. “I always felt lucky that I had a job that I did jump out of bed for. I never used a sick day in 28 years. … I thought it was really neat too that when I first started here in 1992, there were several of the teachers that I had that were still working. They helped me in school, and I could turn around and help them too.”
Striggle grew up on a farm just a couple miles north of Huntertown and attended Huntertown Elementary School. She graduated from Carroll High School in 1975.
Striggle has had her work cut out for her over the years with the explosive growth happening within northwest Allen County. When she was hired as NACS’ deputy treasurer in 1992, the district’s total budget was just over $13 million, compared to the $80 million budget this year. The district has added four schools in the meantime and, as a result, grown from a staff of 344 employees to 1,126 employees. Over the course of those 28 years, the total student population has grown by nearly 165% — from just less than 3,000 students in 1992 to nearly 8,000 today.
With that growth came increased responsibilities for Striggle, not to mention the need to adapt as budget adjustments were passed by the state over the years. In addition to the school corporation’s finances, Striggle was responsible for employee benefits and payroll. If it’s any testament to her hard work over the years, her position has been divided among three people.
“It was always a challenge, and I loved it,” she said. “We were raised on a farm, and all us kids had to work. My brothers are all that way. The hard work was instilled in us — you never could sleep in, you get up and take care of the cows and pigs. I really think that had a lot to do with it.”
Despite her extensive experience, Striggle never received any formal education in finance. She and her husband, Gary — a 1972 Carroll graduate — were high school sweethearts. The couple got married just a month after Striggle’s graduation and started having children.
“People just don’t do that anymore, but back then that was the life,” Striggle said. “I always felt very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to do the jobs that I’ve done here, because I don’t have a college degree. I guess nowadays they wouldn’t hire somebody like that, but I had some experience that sort of took the place of that. I felt very lucky.”
Striggle’s connections to the district have been lifelong. Her father attended Huntertown High School and was a bus driver for 45 years, and her mom worked as an instructional assistant at Carroll Middle School and Huntertown Elementary school. Gary’s mother also attended Huntertown in the same class as Julie’s father. All three of Julie and Gary’s children attended Northwest Allen County Schools, and the couple still lives on the same road Julie grew up on. Gary worked at Indiana Michigan Power for 42 years and has been retired for the past five years.
“When I was retiring, I said, ‘I’ve been married to Northwest for 28 years, and now it’s time to be married to my husband,’” Striggle laughed.
Striggle previously worked for Mutual Security on Coliseum Blvd. in Fort Wayne, and spent eight years at an accounting firm before being hired at NACS. She said she applied for the position at NACS as a way of being closer to her kids.
She was hired by then-Business Manager Niles Pathman as the district’s deputy treasurer, and just a couple years later was asked to serve as treasurer when the person serving in that role gave their two weeks’ notice. Her experience of transitioning into that role is one of the reasons she made sure she eventually retired the right way and at the right time.
“You can’t learn that position in two weeks, so the business manager at the time, Niles Pathman, kept begging me to take it,” Striggle recalled. “They always say the third time’s the charm. Well, the third time he came to me and asked me to take it, I gave in. I had to learn the hard way. I had nobody there training me every day, showing me how to do things. I would have a lady come in at night and help me. My door was shut a lot because I was crying. It was just tough times, and I was thinking about leaving, but I thought, ‘I don’t want anyone else to have to learn like that.’ It’s not fun, it’s very stressful and things have to get done. That was my major goal was not to let anyone have to go through that stress.”
Striggle noted the many changes to school budgets made at the state level over the years. Despite the challenge in adapting to adjustments, “It’s been a great run,” she said.
“We’ve always gotten very good audits and that’s your goal. You just want to try and follow the rules the best you can and come out good in the end. In fact, the auditors always liked to come here because the books were kept good and in order. I always took pride in balancing everything to the penny, and if I was off a penny I would find it. It’s just drilled into you when you come from the accounting world.”