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Olson: Next clerk will have tough job

The next DeKalb County clerk and recorder will step into a bit of a tricky situation.

That person probably will take over in September, with current Clerk John Acardo planning to resign Sept. 17. Acardo is leaving with a little more than a year left in his four-year term.

Acardo is a Republican, so state law mandates his replacement must be as well. The person, who will have to win out among challengers in a party caucus, could face the difficult task of learning the job, preparing a primary campaign and running for countywide election as well.

County Republican Party Chairman Steve Kuhn and County Board Chairman Jeff Metzger are accepting applications.

“It’s going to be tough, but that’s good,” Kuhn said. “Good people rise to the occasion.”

The county clerk might seem like a minor position. The person doesn’t make decisions the way County Board members do, oversee criminal trials like judges do or prosecute bad guys the way the state’s attorney does.

But the position keeps a lot of records on important, interesting areas such as voting registration and real estate. It records deeds and, oh yeah, oversees the counting of votes in our local elections. The job pays $85,000 a year, and if you win an election, there’s four years of guaranteed job security, probably more. Clerk is one of those elected gigs people can hang onto for years once they get established.  

So there should be a fair amount of interest. Not only that, but those who aren’t chosen through the party caucus could well be tempted to mount their own campaign in the primary. 

Acardo has done a great job in making it easy for the public to access information about county government online, which you probably know if you’ve ever looked up information while considering an appeal of your property assessment, or just wanted to find out how much your neighbors paid for their house. (Yes, that’s a public record.)

Applicants for the job must be DeKalb County residents who are 18 or older and can prove they’re Republicans through their voting record or membership in the state or national party. (There might also be a quiz or something. Answer to a likely question: Ronald Reagan’s middle name was “Wilson.”)

Kuhn says they’ll look for people with computer knowledge and managerial and organizational skills. Past government experience could be a plus. And being able to win an election or two also is important, he said.

A caucus vote is planned for Aug. 25, when the party’s precinct committeemen will vote. Their choice will be passed along to the County Board Executive Committee on Sept. 10, Kuhn said.

“When you go into caucus, there’s a series of due diligence questions that we’re going to ask that are kind of tough,” Kuhn said. “They need to be able to answer truthfully to those questions. If they have ghosts in their closet, then it’s probably best that they don’t apply.”

If it sounds like a challenge you’re up for, you can send an email to Kuhn at skuhnsycamore@aol.com.

Whoever wins the job will have to get into the office and prepare a countywide election campaign all at once.

In addition to a possible primary challenge, there likely will be a general election challenge as well. Acardo was a strong clerk; with him out of the picture, Democrats are likely to field a challenger and could add to their countywide officeholders, which already include state’s attorney, regional superintendent of schools and a circuit judge. Democrats also control half the County Board.

Whoever comes out of the caucus will hardly have time to feel secure. Let’s just hope the victor does a good job while seated.

Ramadan write-up: I was glad the Islamic Society of Northern Illinois University allowed photographer Rob Winner and reporter Felix Sarver in to observe its morning prayers at the Holmes Student Center’s Duke Ellington Ballroom this week.

Thursday marked the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan, during which Muslims are required to fast from sunrise to sunset. The day the month ends is called Eid al-Fitr, and it’s a holiday. In many countries, it’s a three-day festival.

I found that I agreed with imam Wahbeh Taweel, who told the assembled worshippers Thursday about the importance of the new building the society is planning to construct a block from its current home on Normal Road. The new building will be key to helping Muslims reach out to the larger community, he said.

“If we know each other,” Taweel said, “we can understand each other.”

Right on. When I was in high school, I became friends with a brilliant guy whose parents were from Egypt. Theirs was a Muslim household. When you entered, you took off your shoes and someone would usually say “Salaam-Alaikum.”

“Wa-Alaikum Salaam” is the prescribed reply. It’s basically a way of saying “peace be unto you” to a guest in your home. 

During the course of my high school years, I became at least passingly familiar with some Egyptian and Muslim culture. I came to understand why people who had to fight to defend their high school during a war with Israel might have a different take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

That is one of the great things about having a multicultural society: When you get to know people of a different background, you cease to see them as a stereotype. So often we hear words such as “mosque” or “imam” in connection with stories that are upsetting. But there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and those people are outliers, just like the members of the homosexual-hating Westboro Baptist Church.

In our communities, we all have an opportunity to gain exposure to other cultures. The more we can come to understand each other as people, the better off the whole world can be.

Personally, I prefer cultural understanding to these so-called “culture wars” some of the TV talking heads like so much.

• Eric Olson is editor of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841, ext. 2257, email eolson@shawmedia.com and follow him on Twitter @DC_Editor.

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