Mary Ellen Vanderventer: Candidate profile, Lake County recorder of deeds
Incumbent Democrat Mary Ellen Vanderventer of Waukegan faces a challenge from Republican Emilia Czyszczon of Deerfield in the race for Lake County recorder of deeds.
Q. Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?
A. Seeking my seventh term, it has been an honor to serve as your Lake County Recorder for the past 24 years. During that time, my office has worked diligently to transform the office into a modern, responsive and friendly operation.
We have utilized new technology, while keeping the old-fashioned traditions of the office alive. We continue to personally answer each and every phone call (no menus or buttons to push). Customers may do business with us in person, by phone, fax, email or through our website. I still love my job and the people I have met along the way!
Q. If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of any important initiatives you've led. If you are a challenger, what would you bring to the board and what would your priority be?
A. No longer a trend, electronic recordings are now a government priority. We electronically record about 50 percent of our daily recordings. eRecordings are seamless and instantly recorded, indexed, archived and made available to the public that same day.
For 22 years I have hosted the Lake County Recorder's cable TV Show, "Doing Good Deeds for You." Filmed quarterly but broadcast daily, topics have included mortgage fraud, veterans' information and a show dedicated to the most frequently asked questions. If you are not a cable subscriber, you may access any of the shows on our website.
In our fight against mortgage fraud, we have implemented a new tool called Property Check. This 24/7 service is free and allows residents to sign up to receive an email or text alerting them whenever a document has been recorded against a specific name or address. I am on the road often, speaking at local Rotary meetings, homeowner's associations, municipal and township gatherings or senior events. It is this time, with constituents that I most enjoy!
Q. Describe your position regarding the allocation of resources in the recorder of deeds' office. Are personnel allocated as they should be? Are there capital expense or other budgetary items that the office must address, and, if so, how do you propose to address them?
A. No taxpayer funds are collected or used in the operation of the recorder's office. Since 1997 we have cut our budget every single year. We have reduced our head count and left vacancies unfilled, while continuing to offer exceptional customer service. Recording fees are set by state statute, deposited in the general fund and distributed by the county board to provide service to Lake County residents. Seniors receive many free services, as well as our military veterans.
Q. Name one concrete program you'll create or personnel move you'll make to improve efficiency in the office or make it more successful. Explain how it will be funded and how you will overcome any obstacles to initiating it.
A. Senior citizens and our veterans are high on our list. We offer several brochures that are great tools and contain resources to help navigate the many services and benefits available to our seniors and military personnel.
As the keeper of the military paperwork in Lake County, working with our veterans is a true honor. My office received the Seven Seals Award for meritorious leadership in support of the men and women who serve.
Our office worked closely with the Veteran's Assistance Commission to sort, scan, index and file over 9,000 military records of Lake County's men and women soldiers. Our recent cable show was taped at the VAC and it's full of great information.
Q. Describe your position on transparency in the office and the ease of access to records by the public. If you believe improvements are needed, what are they and how would you go about achieving them?
A. Real estate professionals, engineers, banks, law enforcement officials and taxpayers all rely on the integrity, accuracy and prompt service of the recorder's office to legally establish property ownership. Transparency is key to our library of over 7 million documents.
For over 180 years the recorder's office has kept your public records safe and secure. With checks and balances in place, our records are available online to qualified customers. Our yearly budget is an open book and published online, as well.
Q. If voters approve a referendum on the November ballot, the recorder's office could be a 2-year term. How would you prepare for the possibility the office will be eliminated (recorder candidate) or added to your duties (clerk)?
A. Many of you may not be aware that I began my county career in the Lake County Clerk's office. I served as Lake County Elections Administrator for 10 years, from 1985-1995, running 26 national, state and local elections. Should this referendum pass, I would humbly suggest that I am the most qualified person to facilitate the merger, since I have the history and experience of running both offices.
Working hand in hand with the Lake County Clerk, we intend to make this consolidation a seamless and positive experience for the Lake County residents, customers and clients, and the loyal, hardworking employees from both offices.
Q. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, going forward, do you see needed staffing or equipment improvements/reductions/changes? Does/will how services are provided have to fundamentally and permanently change as a result? What do you suggest?
A. Even when the Lake County Building was closed, the pandemic did not stop any of the work in the recorder's office. My staff and I reported for work everyday. If we can get through that, we can get through anything! The recorder's staff was amazing and they never missed a beat!