The board scheduled an additional adjourned meeting in order to
allow potential candidates to come forward after Carla Bender, the
current clerk, made her unanticipated midterm resignation
announcement two weeks ago.
Maxheimer will fill the vacancy with no days lost between
officials when they hand off duties, as Bender departs on Sept. 30.
Bender's four-year term began Dec. 1, 2008. She tendered her
resignation in order to take a state appellate court clerk position.
She will become the clerk for the 4th District Court of Appeals on
A brief summation of the duties of the clerk of the Logan County
Circuit Court is provided on the clerk's Web page:
The Court Clerk is
a constitutional officer elected every four years by the voters of
Logan County. The duties and responsibilities of the Circuit Court
Clerk are established by state statute, the Illinois Supreme Court
and the local rules of the 11th Judicial Circuit.
The Circuit Clerk's
primary function is to establish, maintain and keep all records of
the court and the official court seal. In addition, the Court Clerk
serves as the administrative arm of the Court and is responsible for
all financial duties relating to the Court system. All monies owed
to the Court are collected and distributed by the Circuit Clerk.
The board prepared to begin the interview process
Prior to candidate presentations, board chairman Terry Carlton
invited Bender to explain the responsibilities of her position for
the board's more thorough understanding of the job tasks.
What does the circuit clerk do?
Bender began by saying that the major duty of the clerk to the
court is to be the administrative arm of the court. Every paper or
document that is filed, every docket entry that's made, everything
that has to do with any case is the responsibility of the clerk. The
court relies on the clerk very heavily to make sure that this is
done and that it's done correctly. The judge relies on the file
being correct. That is our job, and we take it very seriously,
"I have a great staff and I'm very proud of the job that they've
done over the course of these years," she said.
Getting more specific, Bender said that they are responsible for
all of those filings, to know the procedure and the process. One of
the difficult tightropes her staff walks is: "We are not allowed to
give legal advice, which often is difficult for people coming into
the office to understand. We can do what the law says we're allowed
to do, but no more."
The office collects a lot of fines and fees. The financial
side of the job is enormous.
Bender supplied a list that showed her office makes collections
between $50,000 and $98,000 that go just to the general
fund. In sum, that office collects close to $1 million a year
that goes to the county's general fund, which the county relies on.
"We have an enormous financial responsibility," she said.
She emphasized that these figures did not include amounts
collected by the office for municipalities, the state treasurer,
child support and other miscellaneous fees. These fees are assessed,
collected, documented and dispersed at the end of each month. "So,
we have a very precise system," she said.
"We get audited every year," Bender said, and she was pleased to
say that she had never had an "audit finding," which she said is a
common experience for her counterparts in other counties, because of
the complexities of the job.
She then spoke for a bit on the administrative side of the job:
staff hiring, training and delegating responsibilities to maintain a
balance with employees.
There needs to be a deputy in every session of court. Court often
runs late into the day, past 5 p.m. She and her staff in the
courtrooms stay until court is out.
The overall impact of the circuit clerk's office affects other
branches of government, including the treasurer's office, Bender
explained. "Our responsibility is to the court system, but also to
the board and ultimately to the people of Logan County," she said.
"In a nutshell, to me, this job is more an administrator who can
listen and try to factor that into decisions that are made for the
best interests of the public," Bender said.
Comments following Bender's presentation
Finance chairman Chuck Ruben recognized how the job that the
clerk does significantly impacts county finances. He complimented
Bender on the great job she's done on keeping up with state
regulations. He specifically recalled one recent change Bender
picked up on that allows the county to go back and turn certain
uncollected fees over to collection agencies. That has helped Logan
County, he said.
Bender agreed that it is important to keep up with legislative
changes, and that it had been a particular interest of hers, so that
she had kept organized documentation that has aided in the office's
processes. She carried a large three-ring binder of this year's
collections that she would in turn leave with the new officeholder.
[to top of second column]
Candidate interview process
The three candidates who submitted resumes were all present for
the board to interview: Brenda Wade, Rachel Bunner and Suzann
Maxheimer. All three had strong backgrounds to bring to the table.
One at a time, while the other candidates waited outside the
meeting room, each was given a few minutes to present herself and
say what she thought she could bring to the position. Then the floor
was opened for board members to ask each candidate questions.
Two board members asked the same questions of each candidate.
The county budget is currently under construction, and department
heads have been asked to make cuts to the budgets they recently
submitted. For many this may mean cutting staff. Kevin Bateman asked
each candidate if they thought that they could maintain the quality
of service in the clerk's office -- by making cuts, as he asked
Wade, or without adding to the staff, as he asked Bunner and
Maxheimer, since they are on the staff now and one of them would
replace Bender, leaving a vacancy.
Chuck Ruben asked each candidate what their plans would be if
they would not be chosen in the interim before the next election,
and more specifically if they would run in the election for that
All the candidates indicated that if not chosen for the
appointment, they would likely pursue the position through the next
election process. Wade would seek a job that would keep her in the
area, as the company she works for is going through changes that
require she transfer elsewhere in the country. Bunner and Maxheimer,
already working in the circuit clerk's office, said they'd stay in
Rachel Bunner has nearly 12 years in the courthouse, earned her
degree in leadership and management from Lincoln Christian College
(now Lincoln Christian University) last year, and said that she is a
loyal employee. Bunner said that she would continue working in the
office if she did not get the appointment.
Brenda Wade has had a strong career with AT&T, working her way up
through the ranks, and felt that she would bring strong
administrative capabilities to the position. She said that she works
well with others, has done all of the administrative things that
Bender talked about, and where she hasn't had the specific
experiences of the court system, she is a quick learner and would
Suzann Maxheimer has been married to Mark for 22 years and they
have two children. She related to the board the importance of
history and experience.
Born in Lincoln, she was raised until about the age of 4 in a
two-story limestone and brick building at 911 Pekin St. Her father
was sheriff then, and this was where the old jail was located, with
living quarters for the sheriff and his family upstairs.
Now, a block away, she is in another limestone building, and
Maxheimer said, "So how ironic is it that I've been serving you as
Maxheimer has been with the circuit clerk's office the past 10
1/2 years. She recognized her past mentor, Cheryl Hedrick, as
extremely organized, knowledgeable of the law and procedure. She
detailed some of the experience she's gained over time that included
clerking for visiting judges and juvenile court, which includes
managing the judges' scheduling books.
She linked the human side of the courtroom, the trials and often
sad, life-altering outcomes, to the importance of accurate
recording, filing, the ability to retrieve information and the
impact on many other parts of the legal system. "Each sentence
affects many offices here in the courthouse: the state's attorney's,
probation and the sheriff's offices. The detailed management
of the court file is very essential, not just for the court,
but all the parties involved," she said.
She said Bender has set the example for all to follow. "I and the
other ladies have worked hard and devoted our careers to this
task," Maxheimer said. "I believe I have the strengths needed to
carry the office forward, and the relationships with my colleagues
in this building will see to it."
With 11 of 12 board members present, the official recorded vote
However, because there were several discussions of procedure and
voting processes prior to bringing the nomination for Maxheimer
forward, new board member Bateman said he was confused at what was
being voted on, and he intended his no vote to be a yes for her,
which would have made it unanimous approval.
Jan Schumacher was absent for the evening.
Maxheimer's appointed term of office will extend from Oct 1,
2009, to Nov. 30, 2010. Then whoever is the winner of the next
election will serve from Dec. 1, 2010, to Dec. 1, 2012.