Jean Kaczmarek: Candidate profile
Name: Jean Kaczmarek
City: Glen Ellyn
Facebook: Jean Kaczmarek for DuPage County Clerk
Office sought: DuPage County Clerk
Family: Married with two children
Occupation: Self-employed, communications consultant
Education: B.A. Western Illinois University, General Studies
Civic involvement: 13-year volunteer DuPage County election watchdog. Recently served as a DuPage County technical election judge and a DuPage County Early Voting election judge. Co-Chair Illinois Ballot Integrity Project/DuPage Chapter 2005-2012. Recipient of the 2018 Jane Heckman Award for Exemplary Community Service by York Township Democratic Organization. Co-Recipient of the 2016 Citizen Initiative Award by the Citizen Advocacy Center. Co-Recipient of the Democracy in Action Award by the Naperville League of Women Voters. Eagle Scout mom.
Elected offices held: None. I am a political outsider.
Questions & Answers
1. Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you?
In 2005, I found myself becoming a DuPage County election watchdog. I began witnessing the Election Commission's flawed structure. The so-called "independent" agency was independent in name only. Soon I developed a vision to return elections back to the county clerk's office the way it was done in every other county in Illinois. Every opportunity I had in the community through the years, I shared this vision. In 2014, the former DuPage County clerk was retiring after running seven four-year terms unopposed -- 28 years. It was time to amp it up. If you ask any county clerk in 100 Illinois counties what their main responsibility was, he or she would reply: administering elections. But that wasn't true in DuPage and won't be true until next year after the county board makes their final decision. Meanwhile, the DuPage County clerk continues to be paid by far the most of any county clerk in Illinois for the least amount of work. Soon, that era will be over. I played a unique and significant role in creating the very position I'm seeking. I was so frustrated sitting in a board room month after month, year after year, watching the commissioners in charge of running our elections not doing their homework, not asking the right questions, not exhibiting curiosity, not following-up and not taking responsibility for their mistakes and incompetence. So many of the reported problems at the Election Commission this past decade could have been avoided with the right leadership. DuPage County deserves so much better. My passion is for an open, fair, reliable, secure electoral process. I am determined to represent all of us in this county.
2. If you are an incumbent, describe two important initiatives you've led. If you're not an incumbent, describe two ways you would contribute to the position.
I probably know more about current DuPage government than any outsider. I attend many board and committee meetings. I do homework. I rock the establishment with facts, figures and common sense. I speak truth to power. I've impacted positive change. My priority will continue to be good government and standing up for accountability, consolidation and transparency. I will stop improper procedures and unethical practices including nepotism, patronage hiring and campaigning for the boss. I'm not just running against a person. I'm running against corruption. I will lay the foundation to make our lobbyists accountable so that the county clerk's website will not just list lobbying firms and their contracts, but also what elected officials they're meeting, when and why. P.S. For years, Democratic candidates have been urging DuPage to merge the recorder's office into the county clerk's office -- the way it's already done in over 90 percent of Illinois counties. I will advance this long-held initiative as county clerk.
3. The county clerk soon will take responsibility for elections in DuPage. What steps need to be taken to prepare the office for that responsibility?
During the transition, both offices must serve the public. Service cannot be compromised. The current structure has been this way for nearly 45 years; big changes cannot and should not be made overnight. The highest urgency is assuring our electoral process has everything in place starting with several people equipped to administer elections well. At the moment, the Election Commission doesn't even have a permanent election director or an assistant director. The former election director abruptly resigned in July. What if something like this happens again? Recruitment is challenging and time-consuming because election administration, especially for a county this size, requires an incredible amount of responsibility, knowledge, business skills, experience and integrity. Now more than ever, DuPage County needs a county clerk who knows elections. Election duties cannot be shrugged off to one person while upholding a ceremonial role as county clerk.
4. How secure are you in the knowledge that election results in DuPage are reported fairly and accurately?
At the January board meeting of the DuPage County Election Commission, the executive director reported to the board that it would require $15 million to update and secure our electoral process. There has been no updating. By the Election Commission's own admission, our county isn't where it needs to be. DuPage isn't alone; many jurisdictions across the country are struggling to keep up their voting equipment. Updating, maintaining and servicing electronic voting is extremely expensive. Readers may be surprised to learn that DuPage's voting machines must be housed in an environmentally-controlled warehouse costing $20,000 monthly in rent alone. Our optical scan voting machines date back to 2001. Most Daily Herald readers aren't using 17-year-old computers. Why not? Old voting equipment uses dated software and is vulnerable to failures and hacking. Our TSx touch-screen machines were purchased in 2006. Argonne National Laboratory's Vulnerability Assessment Team located here in DuPage County demonstrated in 2011 that the Diebold touch-screen machine could be hacked remotely and races flipped using inexpensive, easily-available electronic components. Yet knowing all this and much more, I still always vote. I also strongly encourage all citizens to register and vote. We must use the process given us while improvements are made. As county clerk, I will make election security and reliability a top priority.
5. Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
6. What is the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
I learned to listen, observe and read.
7. If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
I approach the future as a fresh canvas.
8. What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
English. Words, in the right combination, can change the world.
9. If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?
I've told my two children to be true to themselves and to stand up for what they believe.