When County Sheriffs and Treasurers Couldn’t Succeed Themselves

There was a time when neither Illinois sheriffs nor treasurers could succeed themselves.

In some counties two people traded off.  Treasurer one term, sheriff the next, etc.

At an Illinois County Treasurers Association in the late 1960’s, I asked about the logic of the 1870 constitutional fathers’ not allowing those two county officials to run for re-election and got a startling answer.

One of the older county treasurers told me that the writers of that constitution figure that if a county treasurer or a sheriff couldn’t get rich in four years, they shouldn’t be in office or something pretty close to that.

The back of the Old McHenry County Courthouse.

One can understand how that logic could be applied to a sheriff back in the mid-1800’s, but how did it apply to the county treasurer?

Not a lot of discretionary power in the collection of taxes when I was in office.

I can remember one instance.  The owner of a large nursery came in a day after an installment of the tax bill was due and wanted me to waive the 1% penalty.

He was pretty disturbed when I wouldn’t.  (“Do you know who I am?!”

Later, when I started looking into real estate assessments, I discovered that the county treasurer played the role of Supervisor of Assessments in the 1800’s.  The treasurer was the top assessor in addition to being the collector of taxes.

The office of supervisor of assessments was created in order to take politics (and corruption, I gathered) out of the assessment process. It was a major county government reform effort in the 1950’s.  Optional for years, the transition took decades and still doesn’t apply to Cook and a couple of other counties.

The power to set assessments, of course, has a lot of discretion that could temp an unscrupulous county treasurer to lower assessments in return for, well, use your imagination.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *