Jeff Clodfelter reached 50 years as a State Farm employee on Feb. 1, but the decision to go into his father Jim’s insurance business did not come easy.
“I first started at the U of I as a music major, a vocal music major. It took me about a year to figure out that, while I love to sing and play instruments, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to teach it, so I switched,” said Clodfelter, who after 6½ years in the claims department, has spent more than four decades as an agent in Monticello.
“It was a good decision,” he said, noting he has still enjoyed music as a baritone in some local quartets.
Clodfelter graduated from Monticello in 1966, served in the Air Force Reserves, then earned his finance degree from the University of Illinois in January of 1971. After the stint in claims, working out of Kankakee, Decatur and Champaign, he started as an agent with his father in 1977. They shared an office until Jim retired in 1995.
“I will always treasure those years that we worked together,” said Jeff.
Landing back in Monticello was also a relatively easy decision. He had the chance to be an agent in Naperville, which his been a suburban boom town since. While it would have likely meant more earning potential, he is happy to have stayed in Piatt County.
“It would have been a completely different life, and there would have been some excitement to that, but, when you trade that for all the involvement that you can have in a community, and working with my dad for all those years; the relationships you make in a small town, making more money just to make more – and sacrificing for that – wouldn’t have been worth it,” said the MHS graduate.
He has also had the ability to plug into the community, serving on the Chamber of Commerce, Monticello Area Education Foundation, American Cancer Society, Rotary, the City Planning Commission, and for the past several years as a trustee on the Allerton Public Library Board.
He is active at the First Presbyterian Church of Monticello, where he has sung in the choir since his youth, and has coached little league and youth soccer teams.
As an insurance agent, he has nothing but good to say, saying it has “a lot of variety.”
He also gives high marks for the people he serves.
“Ninety-five percent of your experiences are very positive. And as they say in every line of work, it’s 5 percent of your clients that drive you crazy,” he said.
His 50 years in the business started with mostly pencil and paper work inside of client’s homes, progressed to microfiche records, and now is heavily computer and cloud based.
“If you go back 30 years ago, there wasn’t a whole lot that changed year to year, month to month. Now it accelerates to the point I think, ‘are they just doing this to aggravate me?’” he chuckled.
Although Clodfelter has embraced technology, he notes it was a factor in his father retiring.
“It got where he was one of two agents out of 1,700 State Farm agents in Illinois that had not switched over to computer,” said the five-decade employee.
He is also thankful for his team.
“I have had the good fortune of having kind and helpful team members over the years, including Mary Waddell who has been with me for 26 years, Savannah Schweig for the past six years, and my wife, Julie, has been with me from the beginning,” said Clodfelter. He and Julie have four sons and two grandchildren.
His team leader, Dev Mandhyan, said Clodfelter is a model agent.
“Jeff is always focused on our State Farm customers and how our products can help protect what’s important to them,” said Mandhyan.
As for the possibility of retiring, Clodfelter is not sure, although he would like to at least slow down at some point.
“The notion of boom! All of a sudden, I’m not sure how I would adjust to that,” he said about retiring completely.
But he does know what would drive him to step down.
“If I ever got up in the morning, and almost can’t stand the thought of going to do what I’m supposed to go do that day, then I would certainly retire. But I’ve never felt that way,” he said.