One of the finest public officials I had the opportunity to meet, Lake County Clerk Willard Helander, has decided not to seek reelection after 19 years in office. When it came to running elections, she was the best in the State. She was so good that Democrats tried to take a large portion of her job away, after they failed repeatedly during elections to unseat her. She will be sorely missed by Lake County.
Her statement is reprinted below.
"Working for the people of Lake County has been my privilege for the last 19 years. I have enjoyed working with some incredibly fine people at the federal, state, county, municipal, township and other local units of government.
"But more important have been the ordinary citizens I have enjoyed getting to know and serve. I met you walking precincts, at train station platforms, the county fair or when you called or stopped in with a concern or to say hello. The citizens of Lake County have been encouraging, honest and embraced our expectations that the County Clerk’s office not be run “the way it’s always been.” The residents of Lake County have been an inspiration to me to do this job, even when career bureaucrats or political barking dogs attacked. You’ve helped make me stronger in that commitment than I knew I was.
"Most of all, I am grateful to the very special people in the County Clerk’s office and our election workers, both current and past. I am not sure that many government workers, short of those responding to emergencies, understand the hours - days, nights, weekends and holidays - like the County Clerk staff do year in and year out. And they do it all without shift changes or relief workers. Some may think we are “just clerks” and move a bunch a paper to the polls. They are very wrong. Our staff and election workers do the work to ensure legal compliance, complex quality controls, troubleshooting and support for even the most disorganized or uninformed person who demands much.
"Our County Clerk team has been innovative to introduce transparency, technology, efficiency, training, auditing elections’ accuracy, all while the number of voters more than doubled and mandated responsibilities increased ten-fold. The responsibilities in the County Clerk’s office have changed considerably since 1994. We now have five different “elections” with voting by mail, early in person, through grace registration, and provisional ballots processed after the election. We do these tasks in English and Spanish, and with ADA accessibility options.
"I have decided not to seek re-election as Lake County Clerk, in part because of the steady march in our state to pass election laws that run Illinois elections by exception. During my tenure, our consistent goal has been to delivery accessible, efficient, prompt, transparent and fair elections. Today it has become extremely difficult to ensure that an election is fair and accurate. So it is the time to say thank you all. It’s been my extraordinary pleasure to serve all the people of Lake County."
The telephone lines are burning up between Democrats suddenly interested in that office and Republicans suddenly interested in that office. Her successor will have some tough shoes to fill.