Sycamore Versus DeKalb: Comparison of City Clerks

Once upon a time, City of Sycamore and City of DeKalb had duly elected, full-time city clerks. Sycamore still has one. DeKalb’s, however, was destroyed in 2013. Low compensation and transfer of powers to the city manager’s office have deprived us of elected clerks and clerk candidates ever since.

Whatever the city thought it was doing when it allowed this state of affairs, the reality is that DeKalb residents may soon be facing their third election in which zero candidates for clerk appear on the ballot.

This is a comparison of the state of the clerk’s office in these two cities.

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Sycamore is not the only community whose clerk I’ve eyeballed. I’ve looked at Rochelle, Maple Park, Lisle, Downers Grove, Genoa, Sandwich, and Naperville.

Even the municipalities that appoint their clerks tend to keep the offices separate. For example, the Village of Downers Grove council appoints the clerk and the deputies, but then places them in an office separate from and equal in hierarchy to the village manager’s office.

Out of all these communities, only Naperville subordinates the clerk to a city manager. That’s fine. Unlike DeKalb, the Naperville clerk is an appointed position. Also unlike DeKalb, the clerk maintains sole custody of the city seal. Napervillains do not have to worry who has the seal and what they might be doing with it.

DeKalb used to be like Sycamore, and with good reason: they both have the same type of government, and an elected clerk. Now DeKalb is an outlier, probably a law-breaker, and absolutely a hot mess. Everybody involved in this arrangement should be embarrassed, and our council in particular needs to get a grip and clean it up.

My sources for this article are city websites, particularly their municipal codes.

Bonus: Handy publication from the Illinois secretary of state’s office listing municipalities with home rule, council-manager governments, and more.