Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently signed a measure that allows township or road district clerks to be appointed or contracted from outside the township.
The new law takes effect Jan. 1 and is expected to relieve the stress on local governments that have been operating with unfillable vacancies.
And it all started with Edwards and Wabash county Farm Bureaus, which introduced a resolution to support the change as part of Illinois Farm Bureau’s resolution process. The resolution was adopted as part of IFB’s policy by delegates at the December 2021 Annual Meeting.
“We talked to our Farm Bureau staff and our district director on the Illinois Farm Bureau Board about why this was important to us and asked them to help us get it through Springfield,” said Rebecca Perry, Edwards County Farm Bureau manager.
Rural communities, especially commission forms of government, have had trouble filling road clerk positions due to lack of population and willing candidates, Perry said.
Previously, only highway commissioners in townships with less than 500 in population could serve multiple districts. The new measure increases the maximum population of a district to 1,000 and will allow road clerks to serve multiple districts in townships with a commission form of government.
By ERIN HENKEL
IFB members felt that when a willing candidate cannot be found within the township or road district, state law should allow appointments to be made from outside the township for both highway commissioner and township clerk, Perry said.
There are currently 17 counties operating under a commission form of government in Illinois: Alexander, Calhoun, Edwards, Hardin, Johnson, Massac, Menard, Monroe, Morgan, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Scott, Union, Wabash and Williamson.
Incorporated townships are excluded from this measure.
Adding multiple districts to a clerk’s duties also helps make the position more attractive to those who are willing to serve.
“(The road clerks) get paid $600 a year. It can’t be their full-time job,” said Perry. “But you know, if you can do two or three of them you can get yourself some extra money.”
Perry said she has been told that most road clerks have expressed that once they know how to do it for one district, adding other districts is relatively simple.
After becoming a legislative priority for IFB, the organization asked state Sen. Adriane Johnson, D-Buffalo Grove, and state Rep. Curtis Tarver II, D-Chicago, who are both active in IFB’s Adopt-a-Legislator program, to sponsor the measure.
Tarver is chairperson of the House Counties and Townships Committee. Johnson is on the Senate Local Government Committee.
Johnson has been a strong proponent of local government issues during her time in the Senate, building on her more than 10 years as a park board member.
“Anytime that we can help rural communities and counties fulfill their obligation, I feel that it is incumbent upon us to do that and it’s really important to me,” Johnson told FarmWeek.
Johnson said that while her district may be more urban, she is also dedicated to serving the needs of rural residents. She said the Adopt-A-Legislator experience has given her a better understanding of issues impacting farmers that she would not have learned otherwise.
“In the end we realize that we have so much more in common than not,” said Johnson. “I have a strong degree of respect for farmers and a strong appreciation, and I am so glad to be a part of the Adopt-a-Legislator program.”
The measure passed unanimously out of both chambers in May and marks a legislative win for IFB and a reminder of strength of the organization’s grassroots process.
“Use the resolution process and use IFB’s lobbying power to help with issues,” Perry said. “They might seem small, and they might only affect a small portion of Illinois, but small issues matter.”
Resolutions Committee to meet Illinois Farm Bureau’s grassroots policymaking process moves forward next week when members of the Resolutions Committee gather for its summer session. Set for Aug. 1, the committee’s first meeting of 2023 will feature discussion and consideration of 17 policy submittals from 12 different county Farm Bureaus. The submittals contain policy suggestions on a range of issues, from private property rights and renewable energy projects to food waste and taxes. Members of the three resolutions subcommittees — Agricultural Production and National Issues; Natural Resources and State and Local Government — will first review their respective submittals and then make recommendations to the full committee. Any policy submittals advanced by IFB’s Resolutions Committee at the Aug. 1 meeting and at a meeting to be held this fall will be considered for final approval by delegates at IFB’s Annual Meeting in December.
Content for this story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.