WOODSTOCK – McHenry County recorder candidate Joe Tirio wants to put himself out of a job, if elected, by eliminating the office altogether.
Tirio, one of three Republicans running for the office, pledged to pursue asking the county’s voters if they want to abolish the office and merge it with the county clerk, which is the way it is done in most Illinois counties.
In an age of electronic record keeping and scanning, Tirio said it is no longer necessary to have a separate elected office. The recorder’s office is responsible for recording, maintaining and retrieving a number of records, such as real estate and land records, subdivision plats and military discharge certificates. It has more than 3.4 million documents on file.
“A hundred years ago, it made sense to have separate offices for these things, but if we were setting up a new government today, I don’t see that we would need to make that distinction,” Tirio said.
State law puts the office’s duties in counties without an independent recorder under the county clerk. Only counties with more than 60,000 residents may have an independent county recorder, meaning that about 80 of the state’s 102 counties have a merged office.
Tirio’s campaign pledge is not radical, given that several counties in recent years have abolished the recorder’s office to save money.
Voters eliminated the recorder’s office in 2011 in Tazewell County, in McLean County in 2012, and in Peoria County in 2014. The LaSalle County Board is examining whether to ask voters whether they want the office eliminated, and one of the Republican candidates running for Champaign County recorder also wants it gone.
Other counties have rejected creating a recorder’s office. Voters in 2012 in Kendall County, where the population exploded during the housing boom, decided to keep things the way they were and rejected splitting the consolidated county clerk and recorder’s offices into two.
Voters in neighboring DeKalb County likewise rejected creating the office in 1976 after its population exceeded 60,000.
McHenry County is now one of 17 counties with an independent recorder, according to records. The recorder's annual salary is $104,750.
“There's an opportunity here to save some money. I know it's not a tremendous pile of money, but I think any opportunity we have, we should pursue," Tirio said.
Tirio is running against McHenry County Board member Tina Hill and recorder office supervisor Joni Smith to succeed Phyllis Walters, who is retiring after more than 30 years in office.
The 1848 Illinois Constitution abolished the recorder's office and folded its duties into each county's circuit clerk's office. The 1870 Constitution restored the recorder's office for counties with more than 60,000 people – state lawmakers in 1963 shifted the recorder's responsibilities to county clerks rather than circuit clerks, according to Illinois Secretary of State records.
The last major change to McHenry County government came in 2014, when voters decided to make the County Board chairmanship popularly elected instead of chosen by the board’s 24 members. Voters next year will elect the position for the first time.