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updated: 10/28/2010 11:26 AM

Lake Co. Clerk candidates discuss budget, pay

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  • Laura Tomsky

    Laura Tomsky

  • Willard Helander

    Willard Helander


Voters will select from Republican Lake County Clerk Willard Helander and Democrat challenger Laura Tomsky in the Nov. 2 election.

Helander, 58, of Libertyville, was elected clerk in 1994. Tomsky, 44, of unincorporated Gages Lake, is a business management consultant making her first run at elected office.

Both candidates have addressed issues in Daily Herald questionnaires and during an editorial board endorsement interview. Following are some of their written responses on the questionnaire. Their answers have been edited for spelling, grammar and style.

Q. Some Lake County communities have contracted out for some services, such as snowplowing, to save money. What innovative methods would you propose to reduce your office's budget? Explain your answer.

Helander. Many new mandates (National Voter Registration Act implemented in 1995, Help America Vote Act 2001, Early Voting, Grace Period Registration) have increased programs, equipment and service contracts, time period for voting and election judges needed. In spite of these costly changes, savings have been realized through work flow analysis, productivity measurements, automation of manual systems, digitized archives to reduce filing and storage needs, cross-training staff and innovative collaboration with other county offices and agencies.

Contrary to the outsourcing trends, we have saved significant dollars by bringing printing of election supplies, collating, packing and testing in-house. Our staff has refined the procedures and embraced technology to eliminate extensive overtime. We also spearheaded partnerships within the county for loaned staff to hold down temporary worker and overtime costs. One of our greatest savings has come from moving ballot printing in house to the county's print shop.

Tomsky. When working with my clients as a business management consultant, I often encourage them to re-evaluate existing resources and procedures. Many times we find there are antiquated processes in place that can be easily streamlined when looked at from a different perspective. Often the current front-line staff have many timesaving ideas and hidden talents that have gone unnoticed.

Q. The state's revised Freedom of Information Act guidelines renewed focus on open government. Name one specific step you would take if elected to increase government transparency in your Lake County office.

Helander. When first elected, I asked the state's attorney's office to provide a seminar on Illinois FOIA requirements for all areas of the office. We routinely refresh information on rules with staff. Several years ago, the Daily Herald submitted requests across the region and reported findings that many units of government delayed or thwarted FOIA requests.

We were pleased that the Lake County Clerk's office had replied promptly and fully with all requests. Our office has consistently gone a step further to provide information the same day the requests are made whenever possible. Since initiating the county's website effort in 1996, we have worked to provide many resources on the web for easy "self service" 24/7.

Tomsky. Sponsor nonpartisan community forums that will give detailed information regarding the function and process of our local government. These forums should be open to the public and provide an opportunity to build a rapport with local elected officials.

Q. Recent steps by the Lake County Board have staggered pay rates for the countywide elected officials and board members. Should the countywide officials earn the same annual salary? Should all of the county board members be paid the same amount?

Helander. This policy question is not one on which the countywide elected officials are asked to advise or vote. Because countywide elected officials run in two different cycles (president and governor), I don't think salaries have ever been the same as some officials are always "lagging" or "ahead" in the process.

The county clerk/treasurer cycle of elections had pay freezes with no increases in the 1998 cycle. Other elected, salaried and hourly staff were receiving raises during that time. The states' attorney and sheriff receive higher compensation historically. However, most if not all department heads, those who do not run for office, are more highly compensated than all elected full-time office holders.

Tomsky. I don't believe that all countywide officials should earn the same salary. Standard business salary guidelines, which take into account the level of responsibility and accountability each position embodies, should be used as the first tier in establishing compensation. County board members when serving in similar capacities should be compensated equally. Performance goals and committee leadership compensation should be what sets them apart.