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Court Clerk Coffelt reflects on 32 years in office

Sally D. Coffelt Waukegan standing her office is retiring after serving as Lake County Circuit Court Clerk for 32 years.

Sally D. Coffelt of Waukegan, standing in her office, is retiring after serving as Lake County Circuit Court Clerk for 32 years. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media

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Clerk of the Circuit Court

Maintains a record of all traffic, criminal and juvenile filed and heard in Lake County. The clerk’s office deals with the public and lawyers to perform a number of functions, including collection and disbursement of traffic and criminal fines, civil fees, child support and processing passport applications. Office staff also attend court to maintain records of all proceedings.

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Updated: January 22, 2013 1:37AM

Lake County’s longest-serving circuit court clerk is retiring after serving eight terms in the office.

First elected as a Democrat, Sally Deadrick Coffelt, 64, defeated incumbent Republican Dawn Marie Mardoian in 1980. She later switched parties.

Thirty-two years ago, she walked into an office with a staff of 75 employees in seven branch courts that was a year behind in payments to local municipalities. One of the clerk of the circuit court’s duties is to collect and disburse traffic and criminal fines.

“We got caught up within six months. We fixed it and we never looked back, and we never missed a payment since,” Coffelt said.

The office now operates three branch courts and has about 150 staff members. She has overseen numerous changes to the office during her eight terms.

“The number of case filings probably doubled ... everything has gotten bigger and more case-specific,” Coffelt said.

Unlike when she first started, there is now a distinction between juvenile delinquent and juvenile abuse cases. They used to be lumped under the more generic juvenile category, she recalled.

The office has undergone many upgrades in technology over the years, as well. Clerk staff had to hand-write every fine and fee. This created “huge” files and records to maintain as well as a large time commitment.

She also spoke about technological changes over the years. “It takes time to make developments happen,” Coffelt said.

The system the office staff uses is called Court Records Information Management Systems (CRIMS). This system has been used for 16 years.

“It is a reliable system that never goes down. In courts, your system doesn’t go down. It must be stable and fast,” Coffelt said. CRIMS has been updated over the years.

She said technology has changed a lot and that it is important to think ahead. The next step for the office is remote access and electronic filing, she said.

“I think people think I’m an old dinosaur (because) I’ve been slow to do things. That’s not true. I’ve been pushing hard,” Coffelt said.

She called the effort “collaborative” and said it was a slow process. She said it takes a “long time” to implement such drastic changes. It also takes input from the judges and approval from the Illinois Supreme Court.

Clerk of the Circuit Court-Elect Keith Brin will take over getting remote access and electronic filing accomplished, she said.

“I would have loved to see it happen while I was here. It’s ready to happen,” Coffelt said.

Brin will be sworn in Monday, Dec. 3.

Once Coffelt is out of the office, she said she is planning on volunteering, and get back to dancing, singing and golfing.

“This has been bittersweet. A lot of people who work here, I hired at age 18 ... I’ve watched them grow up and have kids. The hard part is leaving the people here. I know they’ll do a great job,” Coffelt said.

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