Election Veteran Has Counts to Go
Waldron, Patrick, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Patrick Waldron Daily Herald Staff Writer
As one of Kane County's top election officials, Joan Rennie spent a better part of last week slowly reading through 125 pages of newly passed election laws, which once again stand to revolutionize the way we cast our ballots.
Coming changes for the next election cycle include early voting, voter registration procedure revisions and voting equipment overhauls - just to name a few.
In this business, change is all that's constant.
"It's a challenge," said Rennie of Aurora. "Elections are a challenge."
Those changes and the challenges have made election work Rennie's favorite duty during her 15-year career at the Kane County clerk's office, a tenure that ended Aug. 31 with her official retirement.
But as the chief deputy clerk - the office's No. 2 post - and the county's most experienced election administrator, Clerk Jack Cunningham has vowed to keep her on as a consultant and leave her job open until after the November 2006 election.
"She's a remarkable woman who has been an asset to the county of Kane and the election system," said Cunningham, the third county clerk Rennie has worked under. "She is conscientious, dependable and loyal to the citizens of Kane County.
"We sincerely appreciate the fact she has agreed to continue on until the November election," he added. "Her knowledge of the procedures of this office are very valuable, especially in light of the changes that hopefully will be taking place."
Rennie, 70, wanted to retire five years ago but stayed on after former Clerk Lorraine Sava suffered a brain aneurysm in 1999 and the clerk's job eventually passed to Bernadine Murphy by way of appointment.
When Murphy opted not to seek election in 2002 to her own term and Cunningham won the job, the new clerk convinced Rennie to stay on.
A native of Chicago's North Side, where her parents owned a candy store and she worked at the soda fountain, Rennie, who at one time moved to Florida to run a plant nursery, stumbled into the election business by accident.
In fact, Rennie got her first post at the Kane County clerk's office, in a sense, by creating the job herself.
In 1990, Rennie was working at Frank's Employment Inc., an employment agency in St. Charles, managing the division that found temporary jobs for clients.
Then-County Clerk Sava had called the agency's owner, Ruby Frank, to have her draw up a job description for an administrative assistant to the county clerk. Sava was looking for job descriptions for all her existing positions as well as the new one, a task Frank assigned to Rennie.
"I was asking (Sava) a lot of questions and what she needed with an administrative assistant," Rennie said. "I wrote the job description and then I asked for the job."
Four months later Rennie started as Sava's aide and hasn't left the clerk's office since.
A mother of four, Rennie moved out of Chicago at age 33 to raise her family in downstate Pleasant Plains in Sangamon County. She left her secretary job in the Loop and found herself working in the management office of a fertilizer company.
In 1984, Rennie and her then-husband bought a nursery in Florida and relocated. But two years later, Rennie returned home to Illinois and a chance meeting with Ruby Frank got her on the path to the clerk's office.
"I remember meeting her at church," Rennie said. "That's how it all started."
Once on board at the clerk's office as an administrative assistant, Rennie got her first chance to watch an election unfold from the inside. …