Backes, Eggers address forum’s audience
PRINCETON — The two candidates for Bureau County clerk and recorder of deeds told people about themselves and answered questions at Saturday’s candidates forum sponsored by Voices from the Prairie at the Princeton Public Library.
Jeralyn Backes (Democrat)
Backes, who was born in DePue but now lives in Spring Valley, currently works as an administrative assistant in human resources through Local Laborers 393, which she has been involved in for 25 years. She handles vital records such as payroll and other personal records of employees.
“I have always been one to serve. I raised money for the bronze statue for the Radium Dial Girls who died horrible deaths due to radium they put into their bodies through their jobs,” Backes said. She is involved in Community Against Bullying and is a member of Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church, where she teaches catechism.
Matt Eggers (Republican)
Eggers, born and raised in Princeton, studied business and communication in college. He is a member of Princeton Bible Church and Bureau County Farm Bureau.
He started working as a bank teller at Citizens National Bank in DePue and Princeton and now works at Elmore Electric where he deals with accounts payable and receivables.
His wife, Kristina, used to work at the county clerk’s office where Eggers said he gained insight and knowledge into the office’s technology and learned about the election process through the current county clerk, Kami Hieronymus, who is retiring after 20-plus years of service.
Backes said her biggest challenges if elected to the post will be ensuring a smooth transition, dealing with new state laws that are constantly changing, being trained by other clerks in the office, maintaining a good relationship with county board members, bringing some programs in the office, and streamlining them into the 21st century if possible. “I want to serve people with honesty and integrity,” she said.
Eggers said the challenges he foresees if elected to the office are keeping up to date with ever-changing new election laws and meeting the deadlines that affect elections.
Also, finding enough election judges since there is a shortage in parts of the county, and making sure the work behind the scenes of elections is done by meeting those election deadlines along with the day-to-day duties of being a county clerk.
He also cited another challenge of finding enough space for the new records created on a daily basis along with older records by digitizing them by employees.
Eggers also said another challenge is keeping employees in the office due to the low starting wage in order to attract new help, since a position at the office has been vacant since the end of May.
Changes if elected
Eggers said he would learn from other county clerks in the state by attending state meetings and meet with other clerks to learn about new approaches they use in their offices.
Backes said she has talked with county clerks in LaSalle, Putnam and Henry counties to learn about various issues surrounding the operation of their offices and to ensure that the fees for vital records (marriage licenses, birth certificates and death certificates) are what they should be compared to other counties.
Political affiliation has bearing on their position?
Backes said political affiliation will “absolutely not” have any impact on the office if she is elected. Backes reported her doors will be open to everyone, and she intends to uphold honesty and integrity of the confidential information the office staff handles.
Eggers said political affiliation only matters to how a person makes decisions and choices and that he would be conservative in spending and working with his office’s budget and fees. He said he would not allow political affiliation to be an issue if elected to become the county clerk and recorder of deeds.
Why running for office?
Backes said she would have never run for the office if she didn’t think she could do the work. Backes said she will leave her current job to become a full-time county clerk.
Eggers said his past jobs prepared him for this job and feels he can embrace technology as being a younger generation and has the support of staff and new challenges. Eggers said he intends to make a career change if elected as county clerk. Backes said she would leave her current job.
Eggers said he would leave his current job and make a career change to become the full-time county clerk. Backes said she would also leave her current job in the nuclear industry to work as county clerk.
In response to a question from an audience member whether candidates favor term limits on the county level, Backes said if an elected official is or isn’t doing their job, voters can make that decision. “Let the people make the decision,” she said. “We are a wonderful county and we are very smart, I think.”
Eggers said term limits is not an issue for county officials because if the officeholder is doing the job right and is open to the public and transparent, there is no need for term limits.