Lake County residents voted overwhelmingly this month to eliminate the recorder of deeds’ office and merge it with the county clerk’s office, leaving the two women who run those offices to figure out how best to do that.
Recorder Mary Ellen Vanderventer, a Waukegan Democrat who’s held the post since 1996 and was reelected on Nov. 3, said she does not anticipate the public will notice any dramatic change after her elected office ends.
The recorder’s office keeps real estate transactions, military discharge papers and other documents. The clerk’s office oversees elections and maintains birth, marriage and death records, as well as other documents.
Lake County Clerk Robin O’Connor said her office has just finished canvassing one election and is now beginning preparations for the consolidated primary election in February, so officials there have not begun discussing the merger.
“I am excited to move forward with Ms. Vanderventer on merging two county departments,” O’Connor said. “It is important to create a sense of community and a collaborative culture through this process.”
Vanderventer said they will likely begin making merger plans in January.
“Both Robin and I are really good at sharing information, so I think one of the first things we do will be a FAQ sheet we’ll put on websites,” Vanderventer said of the merger. “The fun part will be keeping everyone in the loop about what to look for and what to expect.”
They have a while to work on it. The merger is required by Dec. 1, 2022.
In June, the county board voted 20-0 with one abstention — Vanderventer’s brother, Waukegan Democrat Bill Durkin — to put the merger question to voters, who backed the idea overwhelmingly with 206,781 in favor and 96,067 opposed.
Proponents of merging the offices say it could save money. Lake County spokeswoman Arin Thrower said in June the potential savings would essentially be the recorder’s salary, which is roughly $127,874 annually.
Vanderventer backed the merger in her final reelection campaign. Her opinion has changed over the years; she opposed consolidation in her 2012 campaign and supported looking into a merger in 2016. She later said she changed her mind after Cook County voters approved a merger in 2016.
More than 80 of Illinois’ 102 counties have a combined recorder and clerk’s office.
While Vanderventer’s 17-member staff would be managed by O’Connor when the offices merge, it isn’t clear whether the recorder’s staff would physically move to the same floor in the county building. Vanderventer used to be an employee in the clerk’s office and said back then the clerk’s staff was spread out on different floors, so she knows it can be done.
“There is really not enough room in the county building to put us all on one floor,” Vanderventer said of the staffs of the recorders’ and clerks’ offices. “In terms of space, we’ll just kind of have to make it work.”
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