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Six vie for Waukegan city clerk position

Waukegan-02/17/13 Sun./Park Place Senior Center Large turn out for forum Sunday Park Place Senior Center Waukegan. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times

Waukegan-02/17/13, Sun./Park Place Senior Center Large turn out for forum Sunday at the Park Place Senior Center in Waukegan. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 20, 2013 2:30AM

WAUKEGAN — Five of the six Democratic candidates running for city clerk expressed agreement Sunday that the next clerk must do more with less in the age of budget cuts, but as might be expected, they disagreed on who would be the best candidate perform that balancing act.

In alphabetical order by last name, here’s a look at some of the comments they shared during an hour-long forum hosted by the Lake County League of Women Voters, the American Association of University Women of Lake County and the Park Place Senior Citizens Services Committee at Park Place Senior Center in Belvidere Park:

Germain Castellanos, a grant specialist with the Waukegan Public School District and past candidate for 6th Ward alderman and the Lake County Board, said he decided to run for clerk “because I want to bring a spirit of innovation and transparency and bring the city clerk’s office up to the technology standards of today. ... I want to work with the different units of government (to) make Waukegan a better place to live, a safer place to live.”

“I think this is a job that you should be interviewing for, not running for. I think the city clerk is paid $90,000 a year — as a taxpayer, I want to know that the person who’s in there has the credentials and the ability to (be) compliant with all federal, state and city grants and programs,” added Castellanos, adding that he feels the clerk should be “a professional administrator’s position, not an elected position.”

Janet Kilkelly, a former member of the Waukegan Park District and Waukegan Township boards, said she believes her combination of public service and business experience “is perfect for executing the requirements and duties of Waukegan’s next city clerk. ... I will be learning it pretty quickly, because I do have the skills need to walk into that situation.”

“I have 30 years of customer service in and out of the community,” said Kilkelly, who currently works as an office administrator for MainStreet Libertyville. “I want to think outside of the box. We know that the city is broke. We have to start looking at (services) in a different way — how can we be creative, how can we bring services to the community that don’t cost them more money?”

Thomas Koncan, a quality control manager for Abbott Laboratories and current 2nd Ward alderman, said his two-plus decades at Abbott have “given me the experience to run an organization. My other experience is my attitude — I have a can-do attitude, I have an ability to get the job done, and I won’t stop until it gets done and gets done correctly.”

“The biggest problem we’ve got down at the clerk’s office that I see is that there’s an overwhelming amount of (Freedom of Information Act) requests, and they are down to two people,” Koncan said. “No matter who gets elected, there’s really only one person down there who knows what they’re doing, so what we need is someone who can learn the job, learn it quickly and be efficient at it.”

Elroy Reed, president and founder of Soaring Eagle Publishing Co., and past candidate for mayor in North Chicago, said he feels “the city clerk should be an advocate for the residents of the community. ... (The clerk) should be someone who takes that position and uses it as a bully pulpit so that residents can have someone who represents them.”

“I do believe that the clerk’s office is in dire need of a makeover as far as the level of service and the quality of service that they render to the citizens,” Reed said. “Oftentimes, when you go into City Hall, period — whether it’s going to the city clerk’s office or the collector’s office or whatever office — there’s not an air of friendliness. ... So that would be my first priority, is to improve the quality of service that is currently rendered by the clerk’s office to the citizens of Waukegan.”

Artis Yancey, a retired Waukegan police chief who served as Lake County corner from April 2011 to December 2012, told the gathering that “I have the experience, dedication and energy to take our clerk’s office to even greater heights. ... There is no better training ground than the Waukegan Police Department.”

“One of the major concerns that is facing the city clerk’s office right now is that in the last three years, they’ve been reduced from a seven (employee) staff to two,” added Yancey, saying that he has a strategic plan to improve the office with options that include volunteer staff and work/share arrangement with other city departments. “What we need to do is come up with innovative ideas to make that office as customer friendly and efficient as possible.”

Duties of the clerk’s office include administering city parking policies, Freedom of Information Act requests and filings for municipal elections, along with such legislative tasks as manually recording the minutes at City Council meetings. The office also sells vehicle stickers, parking permits, and hunting or fishing licenses to the public.

The sixth candidate on the Feb. 26 Democratic ballot, Cameron Harju, was not in attendance on Sunday. The winner in the Feb. 26 Democratic primary will move on to face independent candidate Mark Drobnick in the April 9 consolidated general election.

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