Those who knew Beth Mahn best described her as “the ultimate public servant.”
She was elected to nine consecutive terms as the Jefferson County Collector.
“I was elected after her and worked directly with her for many years,” former county assessor Randy Holman said. “She was always early, stayed late, was very well organized and on time with billing. She was a great example of leadership.
“She was a collector in the years when the county nearly doubled in size,” former Missouri state senator Bill McKenna said. “And I don’t remember anything I ever heard or read that she didn’t do well.”
Mahn died April 30 at age 67 from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
She graduated from Cor Jesu High School and Jefferson College before going to work in a bank in Eureka.
“In the early 1980s, (Jefferson County) Treasurer Ernie Gilbert recruited her to work as his assistant,” said Mike Burch, her husband of 33 years. “Ernie encouraged her to come forward as a collector when Earl Toulouse retired after thirty years. He thought she would be a good candidate.
One of seven candidates in the 1986 Democratic primary, she won 46% of the vote and easily beat the Republican candidate in the general election.
“She was re-elected eight times unopposed,” Burch said. “She was the last elected Democrat in the county. It shows how good a job she did.
Holman served on the Missouri Tax Commission and attended collectors’ conferences with Mahn.
“She was always so well prepared,” he said. “She wouldn’t just come and say, ‘We want to do this’ – she came with data, explanations and resources. She played a very important role in the development of a handbook for collectors, and she was responsible for many pieces of legislation aimed at making the tax process fairer for taxpayers.
Michelle Worth was Mahn’s assistant for 10 years before taking over in 2020 when she retired.
“She was not just my boss, but my mentor and my friend,” Worth said. “When she walked into a room, people respected her because of her composure and her competence and all her knowledge. She had seasonal employees who came back every year because they liked working in that office. Many have ended up becoming full-time employees, and it shows how she ran the office.
Worth said Mahn was forward-thinking.
“When she started, all the records were kept on cards,” Worth said. “The first thing she did was put them on a computer. She has always been interested in new technologies that can improve your processes.
“Where she’s taken this office in the 30 years she’s worked here is amazing.”
Mahn has made it a point to be accessible to his constituents.
“She had her name and phone number in the phone book,” her husband said. “I don’t think you’ll find too many officials like that. Even when everyone had cell phones, she didn’t eliminate the phone from the house. She said, “I want people to be able to find me.”
Mahn met her husband at a wallyball game, and the two were married in 1989.
“She was campaigning, and we didn’t want to try to get Beth Burch elected when nobody knew who she was,” Burch said. “So she kept her name.”
Mahn was an athlete, enjoying water skiing, swimming, volleyball and more.
“And she was extremely good at golf,” Burch said. “There would be these four-man scramble tournaments, and everyone wanted her on their team.”
She struck up an instant rapport with Burch’s two young daughters, and the couple soon welcomed another daughter.
“She was a much better mother than I was a father,” he joked. “She was the soothing voice. And she was really encouraging the girls, wanting them to try different things.
Burch started a sports and novelty business in the early 2000s, and the couple enjoyed attending sporting events and celebrations in the area.
“She would model for me, because she was really beautiful,” Burch said. “She liked to party and made friends easily. She really helped the business, and we had a blast with it.
The couple loved to travel, especially spontaneous trips.
“We were talking at 4 o’clock in the afternoon about wanting to have donuts and by 5 o’clock we were on our way to New Orleans,” Burch said. “That’s what I liked; you didn’t have to plan six months; it was just “Let’s go”, no reservations anywhere.
Mahn didn’t always need to leave the area to relax.
“We added a deck to our house, and when she came home from work, that was her escape zone,” Burch said. “It let her relax, and I know how much it meant to her.”
Mahn was diagnosed with ALS in 2019.
“The doctor came and asked us 20 questions, and we said ‘yes’ to about 19 of them,” Burch said. “The doctor said, very prosaically, ‘You have ALS and that’s what we’re going to do for you.'”
The disease is characterized by periods when symptoms do not progress, then a sudden worsening.
“Some of her sets were long, some were short. She went from walking around to needing help with everything,” Burch said. about, we had someone to help us in. She was proud and she didn’t want anyone – even her daughters – to see how bad her body was.
Mahn died at home surrounded by his family.
“I didn’t want to let go,” Burch said, his voice choking with emotion. “But everyone said it was time.”
Burch said his wife is known for her caring and compassionate nature.
“She was everything that I’m not – that’s probably why we worked so well together,” he said. “She cared about everyone, not selfish at all. His needs always came last.
“We just had a great life together.”
“Life Story,” published Saturdays on the Leader Publications website, focuses on an individual’s impact on their community.