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Our History-Elected Officials: Now & Then

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Since the 1850 election, the positions and the duties of some of the elected officials have changed.

The elected officials now serve four-year terms; in the beginning, elections were held every year.

Supervisor

The Township Supervisor is Treasurer of the General Town Fund and Overseer of the Poor (General Assistance). The Supervisor accounts to the Board of Trustees (Auditors) for moneys received and disbursed. In the early days the Overseer of the Poor was a separate elective office. Today, the Supervisor is the chief executive officer of the Township: Treasurer of all Township funds, Supervisor of General Assistance, and Chair of the Township Board.

Assessor

The Township Assessor was responsible for assessing property until 1954, when the Cook County Assessor assumed the task. Today the Township Assessor is still required to hold a Certified Illinois Assessing Officer designation but functions as a local ombudsman for taxpayers. The Township Assessor’s office is linked via computer to the Cook County Assessor’s office and is able to access County data on all the parcels in the Township. Today’s Township Assessor’s office provides a local facility for residents seeking information or assistance filing for exemptions, appealing their assessments, changing their billing information, and looking for sales or permit data, legal descriptions, plat maps, and notary services. The office is also a source of information for attorneys, real estate brokers, surveyors, appraisers, businesses, villages, schools, park districts, and libraries. In fiscal year 2011, the Township Assessor’s office served more than 3,000 Township residents.

Clerk

As custodian of official records, the Clerk serves as Township historian. The Clerk keeps Minutes of each township meeting, publishes public notices, files ordinances and administers oaths of office.  The Clerk is also responsible for organizing the Annual Town Meeting, a traditional evening celebrating democracy in action that takes place the second Tuesday in April.  The Clerk's office provides services including registering voters, answering election questions, distributing election judge materials, responding to Freedom of Information Act requests, accepting passport applications, providing temporary disability parking placards, acting as a notary public and issuing Cook County vehicle stickers. 

Collector

In Cook County, the Township Collector has no duties and serves without pay, but the Township is still required by law to fill this elective position. The duties were taken over by the Cook County Treasurer in 1969. Before that time, the Township Collector collected taxes-real, railroads, and personal property taxes. The Township funded its work by keeping a percentage of the taxes collected.

Trustees

Called Auditors until the 1970s, these four elected officials, plus the Supervisor, examine and audit all claims and charges against the Township; approve the appointments of Township personnel; make specific appointments for services necessary for the welfare of the Township; and approve the annual budget, which includes the allocations of funds to social service agencies. The Supervisor draws up the annual budget and is chair of the Board of Trustees.

Commissioner of Highways (and Roads and Bridges) and Overseer of Highways.

Once considered very important, these positions were completely eliminated in New Trier Township by 1966. Duties were taken over by the State, Federal, County and Village governments. In many Illinois townships the position still exists.

 

Justice of the Peace

This position has also been eliminated, though in the beginning, the Board of Auditors was made up of Justices of the Peace.

 

Constable

Duties have been taken over by the Public Safety Departments of the villages within the Township.

 

Pound Master

Duties have been assumed by the villages.

Other positions, sometimes elective and sometimes appointive, were responsible for public health and ridding the Township of "noxious weeds." Township Minutes list vouchers for fumigating a house ($5) and burying a dead horse ($5). As the towns and villages were incorporated, new elective bodies, with taxing privileges, were created: park districts, library boards, school boards, sanitary district, forest preserve, mosquito abatement, etc.

Township officials are elected on the first Tuesday in April in the same manner as officials of other government units. These officials serve a four-year term.

There is no indication that the national political parties figured in the elections of candidates for Township offices, although the elections were often contested. Today, the New Trier Citizens League, which is a volunteer organization but is considered a political party and subject to the same rules, interviews potential candidates and prepares a slate for each Township election. The League’s slate is not necessarily the only one. Anyone who wishes to run for a Township office as an independent candidate may do so if he/she follows correct procedures for filing.

In today’s New Trier Township organization, two appointed and paid administrators assist the Board with its tasks: the Social Services Administrator and the Community Services Administrator. The former is a licensed social worker who assists the Supervisor in the administration of the General Assistance Fund and serves a pivotal role in evaluating residents’ needs and referring them to the many social services available. The Community Services Administrator works with the Township’s agency funding process and the Peer Jury. He also coordinates the volunteer committees that serve as the Board’s liaisons to agencies funded by the Township. A Community Social Worker provides professional counseling and crisis intervention services. In addition, the Township employs a Director of Administration & Finance who maintains financial records and reports to the Board monthly, an Administrative Assistant, and a Deputy Assessor.

To view a list of Elected Officials from 1850-2010, click here.

Read the next chapter - How Schools Shaped the Township

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