The position of village clerk is probably the most misunderstood in Oak Park’s village hall, not only because of the clerk’s lack of decision-making powers and limited visibility but also because the clerk’s duties have been curtailed in recent years.
Teresa Powell has served two terms in the position, but announced earlier this year that she is not running for a third term in the municipal election in April.
According to state statute, the clerk is tasked with keeping the corporate seal and “all papers belonging to the municipality the custody and control of which are not given to other officers.”
The clerk also attends all public meetings of the board and executive sessions to keep a full record of the proceedings.
Also among the clerk’s many tasks:
- Swearing in public officials.
- Coordinating responses to public records requests.
- Posting notices and minutes of public meetings.
- Managing membership databases for village advisory boards and commissions.
- Staff for Citizen Involvement Commission.
- Oversight and permit issuance for special events.
- Local election official that hosts early voting, receives petitions for municipal elections and submits ballot information to the county.
- Coordinator of the local census.
- Notary for parliamentary procedure.
- Point of contact for residents contacting the village.
The village clerk is the only municipal employee who works in village hall who cannot be fired by the village manager. The manager and village board of trustees can reduce or inflate the responsibilities of the clerk, and since the late 2000s they’ve opted for the former.
Powell said in an interview that in 2009, when she first took office, the village clerk had a staff of 10 employees. All but two of those employees have been moved to other departments during Powell’s tenure.
Duties that have been eliminated over roughly the last decade:
- Overseeing vital records (moved to the county).
- Animal control (moved to Department of Public Health).
- Reception at village hall (moved to Department of Public Works).
- Weights and measures (moved to the state of Illinois).
- Vehicle stickers (moved to Parking Services).
- Business licenses (moved to Business Services Department).
- Liquor licenses (moved to Department of Development Customer Services).
- Real estate transfer tax, special events licensing, records management and scheduling of meetings at village hall (moved to Department of Finance).
Powell said in a telephone interview that many “people don’t even realize that the clerk’s office is an elected official.”
“I’m not the board’s secretary; I’m the keeper of the [public] record,” she said.
Powell said the position’s duties were investigated in 2013 at the recommendation of the village manager. The board of trustees ultimately voted to approve the reduction in the clerk’s duties.
The full-time position pays $76,625. It was the only elected official position that was not approved for a pay raise, when trustees recently approved more than doubling their annual pay from $7,200 to $15,000 and the mayor’s from $10,800 to $25,200.
Powell said she believes the board does not “realize how valuable the clerk is.”
“I would hope that whoever is elected to the village board in the next election realizes what a gem and resource they have in the village clerk.”