‘My Work Is Never Boring’: City Clerk Discusses Job as Early Voting Nears
By David A. F. Sweet The Illinois General Primary Election is coming up on June 28, and Lake Forest citizens will be able to cast their votes for statewide officials and for their local aldermen. Lake Forest Love checked in with Margaret Boyer, who has been the Lake Forest City Clerk for about nine years, to learn more about the City’s role in supporting our elections.
What excites you about election season?
Election season is an opportunity to see democracy at work. Getting to be a part of that process at a local, state, and national level is a privilege. Lake Forest City Hall is an early voting site, so for two weeks prior to each Election Day, we welcome Lake Forest residents as well as residents from neighboring communities in Lake County to City Hall. It is impressive to see the number of people who turn out to cast their vote, sometimes waiting in line to do their civic duty.
Margaret Boyer holds a historic ballot box outside of City Hall, an early-voting site. I feel like as an early voting site, City Hall plays a part in making history and shaping the future of not only the city, but our country. As City Staff, we interact with voters, our goal is to make everyone feel welcome. We are proud to welcome people into the Council Chambers. Although we often see familiar faces, many voters have never been in the Council Chambers or in the city’s historic City Hall building. People are often impressed with the Council Chambers; it is fun to have the opportunity to invite more people into this important public space.
Do you have any duties on Election Day?
While City Hall is an early voting site, you cannot vote at City Hall on Election Day. There are a number of polling sites throughout the city; we work in collaboration with the Lake County Clerk to make sure that residents have easy access to polling site locations. Currently, the city-owned west-side train station serves as one of the many polling sites.
What do you like best about being the City Clerk?
I like the constant variety and challenges offered by my position. The work is fast-paced and unpredictable. As the City Clerk for the City of Lake Forest, I have the benefit of working with every department in the city. There are so many talented people in the City organization who are dedicated to serving the residents of Lake Forest. I am fortunate to interact with so many of them. I also have the opportunity to interact with many appointed and elected officials, people who volunteer their time and talent. I work with the Lake Forest Caucus to process appointments to Boards and Commissions, and I accept nomination papers for candidates. I enjoy the responsibility of preparing agendas for City Council meetings and by doing so, I have learned so much about the workings of the various City departments. I am also the record keeper for the city -- in fact, we have a vault full of historic records and when requested, I have to be able to locate various types of historic documents. I take great pride in being able to do so! I am also responsible for assuring that after City Council Meetings, ordinances are signed and properly recorded and codified. I enjoy the challenge of organizing and maintaining documents that explain how different events in the City happened and how decisions were made.
How has the role changed since you started?
Since I stepped into the City Clerk position, technology has prompted the most significant changes. The Clerk has always been tasked with maintaining City records and recording history as it happens. The ability today to maintain records digitally has made these records more easily accessible. One recent initiative to increase access to digital records is our adoption of Laserfiche, a new online document portal that offers easier access to public documents like agendas, minutes, ordinances, and resolutions. I worked closely with the Department of Innovation and Technology and departments throughout the City to digitize thousands of pages of documents so residents can easily find documents in the Laserfiche portal. With the growing frequency of Freedom of Information Requests, having recent records at our fingertips allows the City staff to more efficiently respond to requests for information. The role of City Clerk has expanded since I stepped into the position. As with any position, new responsibilities are continuously added and I always welcome the challenge.
What is the biggest challenge you've faced as the City Clerk?
One of my favorite parts of the City Clerk position is that new challenges are presented every day. I am never quite sure which direction my day will take. My work is never boring. I am often tasked with doing research to find when or how something was approved that may date back 100 years. The research is challenging, but exciting. Finding answers to questions asked by residents, elected officials and City staff is very rewarding for me.
What is a favorite story you have that occurred on the job?
I have so many favorite stories. Here is one that I treasure: A very kind older gentlemen came to City Hall with his wife. They were frequent visitors so we recognized them, but this visit was special: the gentleman had received his citizenship papers one day before. The purpose of his visit was to register to vote as a new U.S. citizen. He was so proud and excited. His wife took pictures of him signing his voter registration card. Tears were shed, both theirs and ours! I feel so fortunate to have been part of that special moment.
City Hall (220 E Deerpath Road, Lake Forest) is open for early voting for all Lake County voters from Monday, June 13 through Saturday, June 25. Learn more