County administrator, longtime attorney square off
DANVILLE — Though the Vermilion County recorder of deeds race typically doesn't attract a lot of attention, this year's race is getting its fair share as the only contested race for a countywide office in the November election.
The race pits Nikki Bogart, a former Democratic county board member from Danville and a current county administrator, against Thomas M. O'Shaughnessy, a longtime attorney from Catlin with political experience of his own.
O'Shaughnessy easily defeated two other contenders for the Republican nomination in the March 20 primary election, while Bogart ran unopposed for her party's nomination.
The winner of the Nov. 6 general election will replace Recorder Barbara Young, who decided not to seek a third term.
The recorder's office is responsible for recording deeds, mortgages, assignments, releases, liens, plats and military discharges and making them accessible to the public. Currently, the office has four full-time employees and an annual operating budget of about $196,000 and a special recorder's fund budget of about $85,000, Young said. While it's one of the smallest offices in county government, it generates more than $400,000 in fees for the county.
A lifelong resident of south Danville, Bogart said she has enjoyed serving the public for nearly 10 years as a county board member and more than five as the county's financial resources director, and she now looks forward to doing so in a new capacity.
She said her knowledge of the office and state statutes governing it — gained through her current job and as the former chairwoman of the county board's tax and election committee, which oversees the office — will allow her to step into the job easily. She also said she has experience working with county officials and the public and that providing accurate and efficient service would be a priority.
"If they have any issues, I will be there to personally serve them," she said.
Bogart also pointed to her ex- perience in accounting and budgeting. She believes that background and her fiscal conservatism would benefit the office and taxpayers, especially in the current economic climate.
"I know how to maximize the revenue and minimize expenditures while protecting the property of residents," she said.
"A home is the most valuable asset people will likely have. As your recorder, I will protect your home with the same proven veracity and dedication I've used in protecting your tax dollars on a full-time basis," she continued, adding she has been part of a team that, for a sixth consecutive year, recently prepared a county budget without a tax levy increase.
If elected, Bogart said she will stay on top of laws or issues affecting the office. She also wants to explore technology that could improve customer service, efficiency and save the county money.
"Possibly an interface with Springfield," she said, adding currently employees must drive there to get revenue stamps for documents. "That takes time and money. Perhaps the revenue stamps would be able to be achieved without travel. That could save about $1,500 annually."
"There may be other opportunities for improvement," Bogart added. "I want to look into them, but I do understand funding restrictions, and I would manage the office in a conservative and responsible manner."
Finally, Bogart said, if she's elected, she would give the office her undivided attention. "I have no other professional obligations except the successful administration of the recorder's office," she said.
A Catlin native, O'Shaughnessy said he doesn't view public office as a career path, but a public trust. He believes his 30 years of legal experience and public service experience have prepared him to make substantive contributions to the office.
"Maintaining open, accessible and yet secure public records concerning property transactions is an extension of my professional experience," said O'Shaughnessy, a partner with Acton & Snyder, LLC, who has concentrated on municipal law, residential and commercial real estate, the purchase and sale of businesses, secured transactions, estate planning and administration.
He added he has an in-depth knowledge of the recorder's office, having been a customer for 30 years, and has substantial experience with real estate matters. "I have conducted hundreds of title searches using the recorder's records and have expertise in title examinations. (And) I have handled more than 1,000 real estate transactions and am familiar with all types of recorded documents — not just their forms or what they look like, but what they mean (and) their purposes," he said, adding he also has experience detecting fraudulent land documents.
O'Shaughnessy said he's gained an understanding of the leadership skills needed for open, transparent and effective government through his experience as counsel for several county municipalities and as a longtime Catlin school board member and former president. He said he also has experience managing budgets and staff as a school official and partner at his firm.
O'Shaughnessy said the recorder's office is well-run and has a long history of accurate and timely customer service and accessibility to the public. If elected, he would work to build on those strengths.
"It would be my goal to enhance the accessibility, security and cost-effectiveness of the office (by) always looking to meet the public's demand for technological advancements such as online searches, e-filing and GIS integration, while keeping an eye on costs; by improving anti-fraud measures and continuing the Fraud Alert program; and protecting personal security by continuing the program of redacting personal information, such as Social Security numbers, from recorded documents," he said.
Should he win, O'Shaughnessy doesn't plan on giving up his legal practice. However, he insisted he would be a full-time officeholder.
"To work less than full-time as recorder would breach my fiduciary duties and cheat the public out of its hard-earned tax money by giving less than a full measure of effort," O'Shaughnessy said.