Oswego's village clerk the retiring type : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Oswego's village clerk the retiring type |
|Hester's responsibilities changed as the village grew to over 30,000 |
|by John Etheredge|
"It's just time."
That's how Oswego Village Clerk Jeanne Hester responded earlier this week when asked about her decision to retire at the end of this month.
Hester has served as village clerk since long-time clerk Dorothy Strong retired in 2004.
Hester said her husband, Ken, retired last year and they now hope to do some traveling while continuing to live in the village.
Hester's career in local government spans 21 years, beginning with a stint preparing tax maps for Kendall County.
Initially, Hester worked for the village on a part-time basis, converting paper maps to computerized maps.
"I would come in nights and weekends and do that and then that became full-time when I was also hired to assist the (village) clerk and the community development director," she said.
Hester said it will be difficult to leave the village government.
"I've always enjoyed helping the residents. I like the public service aspect of it and I'll miss that," she said.
Before she worked in government, Hester said she worked in retail for a time and was also a stay-at-home mom.
A self-described "organize freak," Hester said she has enjoyed keeping the village's records.
"I like the history, that part of the job. It's interesting to go back and look at the old minutes when you are researching something and you find the same problems over and over again and the same things keep occurring," Hester said, adding, "Traffic on Douglas Road is a problem, but you check the records and find that 30 years ago people were complaining about traffic on Douglas Road."
As part of her duties as clerk, Hester has been responsible for attending all village board meetings and compiling the minutes of those meetings, including the closed sessions.
Asked if she will miss working with the village board, Hester said, "You know we've had a wide variety of board members over the years and I always think that differing opinions is a good thing. You don't want everyone to be thinking the same way. You want different ideas. You can catch more things."
Hester, however, said she believes government at all levels has changed over the past two decades.
"I don't see any tolerance. There is less compromise. I guess what I'm seeing is it's 'My way or no way.' Maybe it's always been that way and I didn't notice it until I was right in the middle of it, but it seems like there is not as much respect for differing opinions. People tend to get nasty when other people don't think the way they want to and, again, this is not just local. It's all across the board with government at all levels. That's just an observation I've had, so I won't miss that part of it."
Hester said she believes many people today don't realize how similar today's problems are to those of the past.
Hester said she earned her certified municipal clerk designation through the International Organization of Municipal Clerks.
During her eight years as clerk, Hester said she noticed a few changes in her duties.
Initially, Hester said she had some responsibilities involving personnel and finances, but those were eliminated as the village continued to grow and the village hired a human resource director and finance department staffers.
But while some of her responsibilities were assumed by other departments, Hester said she found herself always taking on new duties, including handling a growing number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from the public.
"I've seen a drastic increase in FOIA requests," she said.
Hester said she is uncertain as to the cause of the rise in FOIA requests.
"Maybe it is because we have to keep track of the requests now (in accordance with state law) and I'm more aware of it. We didn't have to keep a list of the requests until up until about 2010," she said.
Hester continued, "I think people just want more information and I'm a big proponent of open and honest government. This is their government and they should be able to get the information they need to get."
Asked if she would recommend the position to others, Hester said, "It's a very rewarding job. It's had its up and its downs and I've been glad to be here. It does take a lot of juggling and you have to be really good at multi-tasking and going quickly from one thing to another and you need to be organized. But, yes, if you're ready for a lot of work, it's a good job."
Hester grew up in the village and her family's roots go back generations.
She said she believes her family's ties and her own knowledge of the village helped her in her role as clerk, especially as the village's population grew from less than 13,000 when she started work with the village to more than 30,000 today.
"With my experience working previously in mapping for the county, I think I brought a unique set of skills to this position that other people aren't going to have. I think that helped me a lot and it helped the village a lot because I have a lot of historical knowledge of the community," she said.
Hester continued, "It's important to know sometimes why something was done the way it was done or why it wasn't or how did that get here."
Like many long-time village residents, Hester has mixed feelings about the village's population and geographic growth over the past three decades.
"There is good and bad in everything and I miss the small town when I knew everybody," she said. "But I certainly enjoy being able to get from my house to a grocery store in five minutes. And I realize with the conveniences come some of the inconveniences like the traffic and more subdivisions.
"I do think that we have managed to keep our small town character and I think the people in the village are, on the whole, a very friendly and generous group of people," Hester continued. "In that respect it hasn't changed a whole lot, I just don't know as many of them as I used to."
Hester concluded, "I hope I have done a good job and I hope I have been able to give people the information they needed when they needed it. I just really enjoyed serving the residents."
'More than just a job'
Village President Brian LeClercq noted that Hester began her career in village government as a part-time employee in the mapping department and then steadily "worked her way up" to the clerk's position.
Referring to Hester, LeClercq said, "She did a fabulous job for us in what is a really important job."
He added, "She grew up here as well. For her being clerk was more than just a job. I think most of the time she was happy to be part of the process and her first-hand knowledge of the community certainly helped."
As clerk, LeClercq said Hester's duties have included handling registrations and letters of credit "that could impact us all to the tune of millions of dollars.
"And handling the FOIA requests nowadays, I think, could be its own department," he said, adding, "Whoever takes her place will have a lot of work to do."