Seventeen million dollars — it’s enough money to run the entire La Salle County Health Department for 18 years without asking taxpayers for one dollar in property taxes at its current budget.
It’s also the amount nearly 17,000 people convicted of major crimes to minor traffic offenses owe the county in unpaid court fines and fees, which is why current La Salle County Board member Bob Vickrey (R-Peru) is running for Circuit Clerk. He will face Andy Skoog, a Utica Democrat, for the office Nov. 6.
“There are millions of dollars owed to La Salle County taxpayers that can be collected,” Vickrey said. “If elected my No. 1 fiscal priority will be the collection of these millions of dollars in debt owed to the taxpayers of La Salle County.”
The La Salle County Circuit Clerk’s Office is one that rarely makes the newspaper pages unless it’s election time.
Generally, the circuit clerk and the office’s 30 employees are plenty busy being the caretakers of all court-related documents as well as issuing the occasional passport. It has a budget of about $1.12 million, which is used almost entirely to pay its employee salaries, including the circuit clerk who will earn $58,000 this year.
As a sitting member of the county board’s circuit clerk committee, Vickrey has put a plan in motion to upgrade efforts to capture that missing revenue after gaining support from current circuit clerk Joe Carey and La Salle County state’s attorney Brian Towne.
As a result, a test plan is in place to determine the feasibility of changing collections processes.
Vickrey is retired from La Salle County Broadcasting and the NewsTribune where he rose to vice president of legislative affairs and economic development for Miller Group Media. He also was vice president of sales and marketing during his time at the NewsTribune. Part of his work experience was to sign off on all collection proceedings.
“Many times I was able to collect past due accounts on my own without involving outside collectors,” he said. “For every past due dollar we collect in the circuit clerk’s office is one less dollar county government needs to put on the backs of the already over-burdened La Salle County property owners.”
Experience and motivation
Vickrey said the circuit clerk’s office requires certain job skills, namely the office holder should have a history of producing an office work product that is neat, well-organized and punctual.
More than 20,000 cases per year are filed in La Salle County courts requiring the office holder to have a history of rigorous workflow planning and analytical skills related to an office environment, he said.
He outlined a management philosophy of “shared governance” that borrows principles of private business that can be applied to the circuit clerk’s office that fits criteria described under collective bargaining negotiations.
“Personally, my happiest days are when I am behind a desk with a pile of papers and get to spend all day processing paperwork,” he said. “In short, I love paperwork and love being a clerk.”
He is in his second term as Peru Township Clerk as well as his previously mentioned seat on the county board.
Vickrey cites his background and experience in office settings and office management as the main difference between him and Skoog.
“To be able to work with over 30 people in two locations, 2½ miles apart, with approximately one-half of the employees being union members of AFSCME Local 978 requires the kind of background and experience that only comes with being in an office environment for many years,” he said. “In this contest, experience is the difference because experience does make a difference.”
Vickrey said would like to borrow some principles of business and apply them to the office while maintaining the current “shared governance” work rules system already set in place through the union employee contract.
“In office management we always look for ways to streamline office procedures on a daily basis,” he said. “Big opportunities seldom come, but small opportunities surround us daily and we should always be looking for ways to improve. Fresh eyes always see something new.
“We should capture the best ideas possible by talking to the people that actually do the job,” he added.
Additionally, Vickrey said he would most likely only serve two terms.
On the trail
Vickrey, like his opponent, has spent a lot on this campaign. Both candidates have purchased billboards, front page newspaper advertisements, and have gone door-to-door in search of votes.
Vickrey said he and his wife, Barbara, have lived a simple lifestyle so they can take advantages of great opportunities when they come along and to be able to give back to the community.
And the circuit clerk’s office could be one of those great opportunities, he said.