Former Kirkland Village Clerk wishes the newly elected village president and board success

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Terri D'Amato
Terri D’Amato

I began my tenure here at Village of Kirkland in November of 2006 when I was appointed the deputy clerk in order to fulfill the remaining term of the then elected clerk, Kay McNeal. After working with Village President Mike Becker, he realized and appreciated the work and dedication I had shown in the few months I had been there so he proposed to the board to change the position of clerk to appointed rather than elected, so that I could remain on. The motion passed, and I then became the first appointed village clerk of Kirkland.

Relying on my previous 30 years of experiences in the business and banking world, I quickly sought to learn, understand, and then execute the duties of the village clerk. I immediately joined a network of village clerks from around northern Illinois known as Northwestern Illinois Municipal Clerks Association (NIMCA) and met bi- monthly at various villages/cities/towns to network, learn, ask questions, and be mentored by some of the most knowledgeable clerks in the area. My association in this group was the only education I had for the first 5 years of my tenure. During my involvement in NIMCA, I’ve served as Secretary, Vice President, and currently as President. I was awarded the NIMCA clerk of the year back in 2015. I also became a member of the Municipal Clerks of Illinois.

When I came to the clerk’s office, there was also employed a water billing clerk to handle the duties of the billing and collecting of the water/sewer/refuse bills for the residents. Since this function also falls under the responsibilities of the village clerk, I had to also learn the water billing system and ensure it was being handled accurately and correctly. I went through 6 water billing clerks before I finally found Barb Huerta, who has proven herself to be a professional, dependable, and eager co-worker who continuously looks for ways to improve the system and process.
During my ten and a half year tenure here at the village clerk’s office, I recognized and updated/upgraded the following systems, procedures, and processes for the village:

  • Changed the village hall office hours from being closed every Thursday and open for 3 hours on Saturday, to Monday through Friday 9-5.
    Upgraded the water billing software to a system that better allowed for reporting, tracking of residents as they moved from one address to another, and allowed us to better monitor past due balances to alleviate unpaid monies due.
  • Realized that the current village code did not hold the property owner and any tenant jointly and severally liable for any outstanding balance due for water bills, had the village attorney draft an ordinance to change that so that the village was not left holding the bag for water usage not paid. The village had an outstanding debt of over $30,000 for unpaid water bills when I first came. Today, we have zero.
  • With the help of our treasurer Dave Jepson, I upgraded our QuickBooks system to an actual accounting format that allowed better financial reporting, easier tracking of line item expenditures, and an audit procedure that once took 2 weeks down to one day.
  • Since November of 2011, I’ve been working as the adjudication clerk for the cases that are heard once in a month in Genoa for anyone who was issued a village ordinance violation and either had to appear or wanted to appear before the adjudication judge and plead their case. I learned the software program, set up the filing system in the police department, held a workshop for the officers to share what I learned each month from the judge on what to do or not to do in order to be more successful in getting liable judgments in the village’s favor, set up the agreement with a collection agency in Rockford and the IL Secretary of State so that any unpaid monies due were sent to collections and then to the SOS office for a lien on their DL’s. I drove my own car and paid for my own gas for each trip back and forth to Genoa each month.
  • Set up online payments for the payment of water bills, and just last year set up online payments for the payment of village ordinance violations all available on our village website, all at no cost to the village.
  • Implemented the “Letters to Santa” program from an idea gleaned at one of my NIMCA meetings. Out of my own pocket I purchased the letterhead, envelopes, postage, mailbox (which Officer Miller graciously put together for me) and wrote letters from Santa to the children of the village who wanted to receive a personalized letter for the holidays.
  • As a member of NIMCA, I was fortunate enough to receive scholarships from this group to attend a clerk-specific education program held once a year in Springfield, IL for a week-long training session put on through MCI in conjunction with the University of Illinois. To complete the program, you have to attend for 3 years in order to earn your Registered Municipal Clerks certificate. I graduated from the Institute program in 2014. Once again I drove my own car and paid for my own gas and meals. The only expense for this educational opportunity I passed on to the village was the cost of the hotel stay.
  • When the tornado of April 2015 devastated our sister town of Fairdale, myself and Les Bellah jumped in to assist the relief effort and were founding members of the DeKalb County Long Term Recovery Committee, which later formed into a corporation for future DeKalb County disasters. Together we worked with other local volunteers to coordinate and communicate the updates for the families, the volunteers, and the donation process. I had our web administrator revamp the village of Kirkland’s website to serve as the official communication portal for those communications, and I was solely responsible for the updates for all these areas of the relief efforts.

I tell you these things not because I feel the need to toot my own horn as they say, but to share with everyone the level of dedication and commitment I gave to the position of village clerk. The village of Kirkland does not have a village administrator, human resources director, or accounts receivable/payable department as those duties were all handled in the clerk’s office. I wore many hats in the office of the clerk, and I enjoyed every one of them and took each responsibility seriously.

It was not a duty I took lightly – but it was one I thoroughly enjoyed and wanted to be proud of not only for myself, but for the community of Kirkland. It was never about the money, as I worked full time hours on a part time salary -it was about the sense of pride in one’s community and performing a great job as a reflection of that very thing – community pride.

In spite of all the accomplishments and progress made in the clerk’s office, certain members of this board have decided instead to attempt to demean, diminish, and defame my work and my character by making slanderous accusations of misappropriation of funds, non-disclosure of documents, and fraud. All untrue. Instead of celebrating or recognizing these accomplishments, they elected to find ways to criticize them. They’ve chosen instead to remove and replace those that are responsible for those accomplishments.

It’s been 2 years since the tornado in Fairdale, yet there is still no Emergency Disaster Plan for the village of Kirkland. The board wants to cut spending, which is understandable, yet there is no Economic Development Committee to encourage new growth and new businesses in order to generate new revenue.

The village has elected a new village president, and he will certainly face challenges and obstacles as any newly elected official would. Any mayor or village president will tell you, the success of their office is largely dependent on the qualifications, knowledge, success and respect of his or her village clerk. I wish all the members of the village board and the newly elected village president success during their tenure. I will always cherish the time I spent here at village hall, and I will take with me many wonderful memories of all the incredible people I’ve had the honor and pleasure to work with. I may not live in the village limits, but Kirkland is my community too – the place where I enjoy the pleasure of friends and enjoy doing business. It’s still where I call home.

Terri D’Amato
Former Village of Kirkland Village Clerk

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