Reformer ready to work on DuPage election board
By the time a report critical of the DuPage Election Commission was released, the decision had already been made.
All three of the commissioners who oversaw the bipartisan agency would be replaced. And Cathy Ficker Terrill would be one of the new board members charged with addressing a broad range of issues raised about the commission's practices and policies.
DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin made it official April 25 when he appointed Terrill and West Chicago Democrat Arthur Ludwig to the board of election commissioners. The third and final vacancy on the panel hasn't yet been filled.
Cronin said he considers Terrill to be his go-to person for making reforms at embattled county agencies. "She gets the tough jobs," he said. "She has to come in and clean things up."
With the first meeting of the revamped election board set for Tuesday, Terrill says she's ready to take a closer look at the commission and make necessary changes.
"I am glad to be of service," said Terrill, whose extensive resume includes teaching a graduate level college course about organizational change. "I see it as a way to give back to the county."
Last March, the 57-year-old Elmhurst resident was named interim director of the DuPage Housing Authority after revelations that the agency misspent or failed to account for millions of federal dollars. The housing authority went on to make significant improvements, according to a report released last month.
Terrill, who retired in December 2010 as president and CEO of the Ray Graham Association, is working part time as CEO of the Institute on Public Policy for People with Disabilities.
She stepped down from her temporary role with the housing authority in November. Several months later, she was a finalist for a vacancy on the county board but didn't get that 7appointment.
Since being sworn in as an election commissioner, Terrill has been busy reading information about the agency. That research includes reviewing a report by Crowe Horwath LLC, which found that improvements needed to be made to the commission's credit cards, ethics and procurement policies. Steps also should be taken to make the agency more transparent and accountable, according to the report.
Cronin said Terrill's "focus on doing the right thing" is a major reason he selected her for the election board. He didn't need county board approval to make the appointment.
"She comes in and makes things happen," Cronin said. "She did a marvelous job at the housing authority. I am so pleased that she's accepted the responsibility of leading the reform effort at the election commission."
Several county board members reacted to the appointment by expressing support for Terrill.
"She proved herself with the DuPage Housing Authority," county board member JR McBride said. "Even though the election commission is a unique situation to oversee, she's got a proven record to fix this."
Ludwig's appointment was praised by local Democratic Party leaders.
"I know Art Ludwig, and I think that was a great choice," DuPage Democratic Party Chairman Bob Peickert said. "He will be a very good commissioner who will represent all of the voters."
Cronin has known both Ludwig and Terrill for about two decades, having met them when he was a state lawmaker.
Ludwig, 65, has extensive experience in labor unions and state government. He served as director of the Illinois Department of Labor from 2004 to 2006.
"Art exudes credibility," Cronin said. "He has no agenda. He's going to call balls and strikes."
Terrill said she expects the new election board's first meeting on Tuesday to be more than a getting-to-know-you session. "We will do as much as time allows," she said.
For example, Terrill says she's hoping to set a time and location for future meetings that's more convenient for the public. Currently, the election board meets at the commission's office and attendees must be escorted to the room.
Other issues expected to be addressed soon by the board including revising the commission's ethics policy and bringing it in line with the county's.
Terrill said she wants to follow Crowe Horwath's recommendation that the commission review all of its existing contracts to make sure they were properly awarded. The consultants discovered the agency didn't adhere to its own rules while awarding 12 out of 13 contracts.
"The board's obligation is to look at the process in which contracts are approved and make sure that we're following good governance," Terrill said. "We will review it and then come up with a plan of correction."
Cronin said he believes the Crowe report "just scratched the surface" and that more work is needed.
"We're going to get to the bottom of this," Cronin said. "We need to have a thorough understanding of hiring practices, procurement -- everything. There's nothing that's not on the table."