Lake County Board honors outgoing officials for years of service
Five longtime public servants received special recognition Tuesday from the Lake County Board for their combined 84 years of service and a dedication to constituents.
The board honored three of their own and two countywide office holders who were attending their last meeting before moving on Nov. 30.
Some called it a swan song on their political careers, while others will continue in other capacities, but all were recognized as "individuals who truly have transformed our county in different ways," said board Chairman Aaron Lawlor.
If you count earlier duties, the public service of the five honorees stands at 110 years. Their tenures spanned the growth of the county as well as the evolution of technology in everything from online election results to property tax collection and smart traffic signals.
• Willard Helander, the county clerk since 1994, was an attorney who first joined the public sector in 1977 with a judicial clerkship for the Tennessee Civil Court of Appeals.
After moving to Illinois, she became the founding director of the Transportation Management Association of Central Lake County before running for public office.
Considered a pioneer in technology, she oversaw various improvements such as optical scan voting, early voting and the expansion of voting options for people with disabilities. She also guided the first Internet reporting of election results in Illinois. Her office was honored for innovative technology by the International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Elected Officials and Treasurers for software developed for redistricting purposes that was said to have saved $500,000.
• Robert Skidmore began as an assistant cashier in the treasurer's office in 1984 and was elected to the first of four consecutive terms as treasurer in 1998. Under his leadership, the treasurer's office implemented two major computer upgrades to improve efficiency in tax collection and distribution, and created a user-friendly website and online bill payment system.
He said he was proud of how his staffers handled thousands of calls from homeowners who were facing foreclosures or unable to pay their property taxes on time.
"I stressed to each employee to please try to put themselves in the position of these taxpayers and to try to understand what they are going through," he said.
• David Stolman first was elected to the county board/forest preserve district in 1992. He is stepping down as a result of his election last week to replace Skidmore.
He served as the board's as vice chairman from 2008 to 2010, and chairman from 2010 to 2012. He has championed fiscal responsibility, economic growth, and transportation, and as chairman helped create "significant momentum" on the proposed extension of Route 53/120.
• Diana O'Kelly was elected to the county board in 1994. The former owner of an executive search firm, she was the longtime chair of the public works and transportation committee. In that role, she played a key role in the importance of trail connections, supported significant highway improvements and promoted the use of technology, including the PASSAGE intelligent transportation system.
O'Kelly has been a resource for several fellow county board members.
"You transformed this board," said fellow board member Steve Carlson.
• Pat Carey was elected to the Lake County Board in 2008 after serving as a trustee and mayor in Grayslake.
With a focus on environmental matters, she championed sustainable practices and recycling, and supported the creation of the county's first sustainability coordinator position. She never sought higher office, saying local government is more responsive to residents.
"They know where to find us, and when that level of connectivity is lost at the state and federal level, government becomes less functional," she said.