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Want to Run for Elected Office? Now's The Time

Spring ballot prospects get encouragement but race paperwork clock for Dec. 13-20 filing period.

Every week, somebody picks up your garbage, somebody teaches your children and somebody decides whether to repair your street or fix the nearby flood zone.

Those "somebodies" are usually government workers. They, in turn, report to elected officials who decide who gets hired or fired, how taxpayers' money is spent and make rules that affect people's lives. These officials might be responsive to citizens and spend money wisely, or they might be corrupt or inept.

Think you could do a better job? Starting Dec. 13, citizens will have a week to file their candidacy for the dozens of elected offices up for grabs in the April 5 elections. The positions include village boards, school boards, park boards, township offices, library boards and others.

So this almost two-week span provides just enough time for interested parties to prepare.

"When it comes to the corruption watch, the Chicago suburbs have flown under the radar for too many years, with too many people staying in office unchecked_," said former WLS Channel 7  political reporter Andy Shaw, now the executive director of the Better Government Association (BGA).

"Government's never at its strongest when elected officials run unopposed. And any board is best when it's made up of people from a variety of backgrounds and expertise—who are there to serve the taxpayer, not themselves," he said.

Engaging candidates

In Wilmette, you can peruse the village, park district and library websites for public notices, as well as petition applications.

One school district decided to actively encourage candidates to run for its board. Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 held an informational night for prospects on Oct. 28.

"We got a great response," said Bernadette Tramm, public information coordinator for District 64. "It's hard to say how many people will file papers, but people who came said it was worthwhile."

They listened to a presentation about what's involved in being a school board member. Then the attendees were able to chat with current and former board members about their experiences. Tramm also placed how-to's on the district's website.

"The candidates must be registered voters and residents of Wilmette and that they can pick up their election packets here at the administrative of the library," Ellen Clark, executive director of the library, told Patch. 

Decide what to run for

To learn more, the Cook County Clerk's Office has a list of positions set to appear on ballots.

If you decide to run for office there's a candidate's guide on the Illinois State Board of Elections website.

"The state does offer direction," Deputy Village Clerk Barb Hirsch said.

A crucial task to become an eligible candidate is circulating petitions to collect the signatures of registered voters in that particular jurisdiction.

Hirsch has also placed some information on the town's website, and she is the person who accepts forms from those running for office in Wilmette.

File at the headquarters

For other offices, you'll have to go to that location to file your candidacy.

"For the consolidated [spring] election, candidates all need to file with their local jurisdiction. If I'm running for school board, I file there. Every jurisdiction compiles a list  of candidates, and we put them on the ballot," said Courtney Greve, a spokeswoman for Cook County Clerk David Orr.

Joe Annunzio, the attorney for Niles, said he thought there was enough time before Dec. 13 filing period for a door-to-door petition campaign to get on the ballot.

"It's different if you're the only one running and have nobody to help," he said. "But if you can get six or seven people out on a Saturday, that should be enough."

Shaw offers more impetus for running.

"All public officials must be held accountable, which is why we're working hard at the BGA to expand our reach and investigate how local government is operating and representing the suburban taxpayer," he said.

"We'll do our part," Shaw added. "But I'd encourage citizens to do their part and encourage vigorous elections."

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