DANVILLE — Three relative newcomers to local politics are competing in Tuesday's primary to win the Republican party's nomination for Vermilion County recorder.
Attorney Thomas O'Shaughnessy, special education teacher Deborah Runyan and NACCO inventory analyst Eric Rosson have been campaigning for the opportunity to face the lone Democratic candidate, Nikki Bogart, in the November general election.
None of the three has previously run for any countywide or statewide elected offices, although O'Shaughnessy has been a member of the Catlin Board of Education for 16 years, served as an election judge since 2007 and is a former Republican precinct committeeman. O'Shaughnessy and Runyan have spent 30 and 22 years, respectively, in their professions and believe their experience has prepared them for the recorder's office, while Rosson believes his experience in the Marines and as an inventory analyst have provided him with the skills necessary to be the county's recorder.
Runyan said she is retiring from the Danville school district at the end of the current school year and was motivated to run for this office, because the position has been held by other former teachers. Runyan said although she's never worked in the recorder's office, she's familiar with its duties and responsibilities and good at working with and managing people.
As a long-time member of the Danville Education Association, which she serves as secretary, Runyan is also a longtime member of the Illinois Education Association. She has served as an elected delegate to the National Education Association representative assembly twice and the IEA representative assembly five times.
Runyan said she has experience handling budgets, because she and her husband were small business owners at one time, and she's written hundreds of legal documents in her professional role and gained experience with timely filing and accurate record keeping. Runyan said she also has excellent technology skills, and is good at organizing and helping others organize. She said she's honest, hard-working and dedicated. She also said voters deserve a full-time recorder, so she would be in the office full-time. Runyan said she has set a personal work ethic of coming in early and working late.
O'Shaughnessy is a partner in the Danville law firm of Acton and Snyder, practicing in the areas of civil law, municipal law, residential and commercial real estate, purchase and sale of businesses and secured transactions, including mortgages, and estate planning and administration.
O'Shaughnessy said he has used the documents in the recorder's office for 30 years, doing title searches for example, so he's familiar with the organization of the office, because he's a user. He said he has no grand plans for how the office could work better, but knows how the office operates. Also, he said, he has become familiar with the document fraud issues that have been investigated recently with the help of county recorders, because he has defended people facing foreclosure who have been the victims of false documentation. He is familiar with what recorders and state officials are trying to guard against and protect the public from.
O'Shaughnessy said he's also familiar with the budgeting process of governments from his school board experience and as legal counsel for municipalities. He has personnel management experience, making day-to-day employee decisions in the law firm, and has been involved with employment policy as a school board member.
O'Shaughnessy said he doesn't plan to retire from his law practice entirely, because he has clients he's developed over a 30-year period and doesn't want to abandon them, but he understands the public expects elected officials to be at their offices.
"I understand that if I am (elected), that's my first job. I have partners that will take over other aspects of my practice that I can't accomplish when I'm at the recorder's office," said O'Shaughnessy, who added that there are nights and weekends when he can do legal work. "I learned a long time ago that public office is a public trust, and you need to devote a full measure toward that or not do it. You're better off just not doing it if you can't devote the full measure of effort. That's what I've committed to and that's what my partners understand. It's certainly my plan to not treat that as a part time job."
Rosson said he would not keep his job at NACCO and believes the county recorder's job or any elected officer should work a minimum of 40 hours a week and treat it as a full-time job. He said he's running because he believes it's important for younger people to get involved in the political process rather than just voting.
Rosson said he's not as familiar with the office's duties and responsibilities as the current recorder, but he can't learn every aspect of the job until he starts doing it. In reference to budget experience, Rosson said as a non-commissioned officer in the Marines he had to prepare an annual request for equipment to be used for food preparation. And, he said, he has some experience managing others as a non-commissioned officer, and in his current job, he handles a lot of records and documents as an inventory analyst.
"Keeping accurate records is very important to my current job," he said.