January 29, 2023
Election


Election

Joe Tirio, McHenry County Clerk 2022 Primary Election Questionnaire

McHenry County Clerk candidate Joe Tirio

McHenry County Clerk candidate Joe Tirio answered Shaw Local’s election questionnaire for the McHenry County Clerk primary election.

Voting ends for the primary election on the evening of June 28.

Full Name: Joe Tirio

What office are you seeking? McHenry County Clerk

What offices, if any, have you previously held? McHenry County Clerk

McHenry County Recorder

City: Woodstock

Occupation: McHenry County Clerk

Campaign Website: iWontHireMyWife.com

What would be your top three priorities over the next four years?

Election integrity: This is a broad topic, covering cyber security, misinformation/disinformation detection and remediation, physical security, legislation, and more. Whether you believe that the 2016 and/or the 2020 elections were affected by bad actors or not, one thing is for sure. They are relentlessly trying to negatively impact our elections, confidence in our institutions, and even our personal relationships. Election integrity isn’t just about broad programs to protect against international threats, it’s also about the local policies and procedures involved in the preparation and execution of elections. For example, this year we are taking a different approach to training that should provide some useful insights into the effectiveness of the training and the readiness of our judges. While we can’t control what happens on a federal level, I know we can continue to deliver elections that the people of our county can trust.

Cost control: The country and the world are in a bad financial place these days. While the pandemic may be over, we continue to feel its financial impacts. The low-hanging fruit may be gone, but that doesn’t mean we will stop looking for ways to reduce costs. In my time in office, I’ve saved nearly $3 Million by improving processes, reducing headcount, and delaying or eliminating spending whenever I could. Continued progress in this regard will demand greater ingenuity. To that end, I pulled together the “Land and Tax” working group consisting of representation from the Clerk, Recorder, Assessments, GIS, and Treasurer’s offices. We meet to inform the others of projects we are working on, issues we are experiencing, and news worth discussing. Then, we look for ways we can assist the others, and through these discussions, we have been able to avoid a department from having to buy additional software and helped township Assessors gain access to critical data sooner, and in some cases, data they never had before.

Community engagement: While there is a limit to the degree we can limit costs, perhaps there is an opportunity to increase the office’s value to the public. We could start with better educating the people on the services we provide, and how those services can benefit them. In order to do this inexpensively, we would have to look at leveraging communication channels like social media, seminars, and such. For example, soon we will be doing a seminar on how to remove unlawful restrictive covenants from property, in conjunction with the McHenry County Bar Association and Heartland Realty.

Taxes are a top concern raised by voters locally. What do you do within your position to address residents’ tax burden?

Reducing the cost of government has been a focus for me since before I ever considered working in government. When I first ran for office, I ran on a platform that included eliminating the office I ran for and waiving my right to a pension. I kept those promises and did more. Since my time in office, I’ve saved the people of the county nearly $3 Million. That doesn’t mean I’m done. I’m looking at ways to streamline our processes, like marriage license issuance, to further reduce labor costs.

I also want to be sure that taxpayers pay only what they should, no more and no less. Our work with the County and Township Assessors should help to ensure that only those households that are eligible for property tax exemptions get them and if the property changes hands, that the exemptions are removed in a timely fashion. Soon we will officially be announcing a fraud referral and review process in partnership with the State’s Attorney’s office. This process will allow our staff to refer potentially fraudulent documents for further review and action by the States Attorney’s office. The goal is to protect residents from property title fraud and to ensure that proper taxes are paid as part of property transfers.

What level of confidence do you think voters have in local elections? What is driving that confidence or lack thereof?

The majority of the feedback I’ve received is that people are confident in the local elections, but in some cases have concerns on a national level. Some of this is due to a lack of information or misinformation. So, to my earlier point about community engagement, going forward, we need to do a better job of educating the public so their concerns can be addressed or avoided altogether. To that end, we have begun an outreach and education program including videos about the election process and Election Judges. So far, it has been very well received and we hope to do more on a regular basis.

If you could redo any one decision made by the county clerk in the last four years, what would it be and why?

I would have implemented the Supervisor role in the Clerk’s office sooner. At the heart of any operation is the people. Implementing them sooner would have gotten us to a greater level of capability sooner, better employee engagement, etc.

In addition to elections, the county clerk’s office handles a myriad of duties. What do you bring to the table that your opponents do not?

I’d start with 6 years of experience. This isn’t a job that you can master in your first year or two. There are countless moving parts all operating against a backdrop that’s constantly changing. Social, political, and technological forces trigger changes in legislation and best practice philosophies. It then becomes my job to sift through and implement those as appropriate. To do that in a thoughtful way, you have to understand all the moving parts, where they interact, the time and resource constraints, legal considerations, how they will be paid for, and so much more. There’s no replacement for that kind of experience and no other way to get it than to sit in that chair. I bring that experience to the job every day. My opponents, quite literally would not know where to start.

It’s also important to recognize that the world the Clerk works in has changed a great deal in the last six years. When I came into office, election integrity was hardly a kitchen table topic, property fraud and property tax fraud were seldom discussed, cybersecurity was a good idea but not the mandate it is today, vote by mail was a fairly rare occurrence compared to today’s VBM turnout, and the pandemic has redefined every use of the word ‘normal’.

I also bring a number of accomplishments to the office. Some of the highlights include:

  • Implemented new systems and processes in both the Clerk and Recorder’s offices to improve accuracy and efficiency and reduce cost.
  • Eliminated the elected Recorder, eliminating a salary, benefits, and pension.
  • Reduced document turnaround time in the Recorder’s office from over 4 days to a few hours.
  • Led the work for a fair remapping of precincts without political influence or preference.
  • Contributed to a white paper titled “Electronic Records Preservation”, published by PRIA (Property Rights Industry Association)
  • Was appointed to the State Board of Election Advisory Committee
  • Led Clerk and Recorder teams to deliver our critical services through the pandemic, closing for only one day to establish new processes to ensure our ability to continue to serve.
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