Guest Column: Job opening in Stephenson County government

June 30, Andrew Smith announced his resignation as Stephenson County Treasurer—effective July 21.

Per statute, the County Board has 60 days to select someone to finish Smith’s term; the party then has until Sept. 6 to name a candidate for November’s ballot.

In Illinois, candidates must live in Stephenson County and be registered Republican voters. Letters of interest are due by 4 p.m., July 21, at P.O. Box 292, Freeport, IL 61032.

At 25 years, Smith was the youngest treasurer elected in Illinois. Smith had no prior banking or accounting experience; he learned on the job.

When asked his qualifications upon seeking the office and his advice to potential candidates, Smith said: “Having an open mind and being ready for anything. I think that it’s important to be a people person above anything else. …They [County Republican Chairman Brian Stewart and presiding Board Chairman John Blum] speak of accounting and bookkeeping—that’s such a little part of this job, if you’re unable to help people and understand them…and have a knowledge of how to get things done, you have no chance of succeeding at this. … I have an agriculture degree, worked in an insurance agency, grew up on a farm, [and] am a member of the Republican Party. I worked really hard to get elected. It worked out for me.”

When Blum was asked whether Smith’s resignation was a “surprise,” Blum said: “…yeah. Andrew had called me into his office, and we discussed what his plans were. … Actually, he had told me before he had made a commitment…he was agonizing over whether he should make that decision…we talked about it on a personal basis. And, just most recently, he had informed me that he had made that decision final.”

Interestingly, Smith’s resignation comes just after the June 26 filing deadline for third-party candidates. Without an incumbent running, had the announcement been more timely, a third-party candidate might have petitioned to be on the ballot.

Blum said, as presiding County Board chairman, he gets to assemble the selection committee to review Republican candidates for the position. Yet again, voters are left to trust Blum’s hand-picked committee. (What do precinct committee people do?)

Interesting Stewart and Blum have added “Interested persons must…have a background in finance and accounting, [and] a working knowledge of the Office of Treasurer”—neither of which Smith had when elected—yet they gave his performance high praise.

There is a third option—other interested people can declare themselves as write-in candidates; it’s a powerful tool for local elections now simplified with the new ballots.

Marianne L. Garvens is a contributing writer for The Rock River Times and is a Freeport resident.

From the July 5-11, 2006, issue

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