Cathy Haley

As the calendar turns the page to a new year, one of the first things Riverside President Joseph Ballerine will need to do is appoint a new village clerk.

On Dec. 12, Village Clerk Cathy Haley submitted a resignation letter to Village Manager Jessica Frances confirming that her last day on the job in Riverside would be Dec. 30. 

Haley, who has accepted an out-of-state job offer, informed Frances of her decision on Dec. 10, according to the letter, which the Landmark obtained through a public records request.

Her final week on the job will focus on organizing the clerk’s files, sending out business license renewal letters, updating the village website and putting the final touches on the minutes from what turned out to be her final village board meeting as clerk on Dec. 2.

“My offer to assist remotely with meeting minutes, website updates, proofreading documents or other projects stands,” Haley wrote in her email to Frances. “I regret that I cannot give you more time in the office to facilitate a smoother transition. I wish you, the village board and all my wonderful co-workers well.”

While Haley served as Frances’ secretary and village clerk, she was involved in many more ways. A former resident of the village for 11 years, Haley has been an enthusiastic volunteer at local schools and helped establish Riverside Arts Weekend and the Riverside Farmers Markets as the annual staples they are today. She also assisted during the village’s July 3-4 celebrations.

“She very passionate about public service and helping others generally,” said Frances, who has worked alongside Haley since being hired as the village’s finance director in 2012. “She’s an amazing human being and she leaves very big shoes to fill.

“I’m going to miss her terribly. I’ve worked with her the entire time I’ve been here, and she has so much knowledge, is so willing to share, brainstorm and come up with solutions.”

Frances said that while Haley’s email referenced her resignation, Haley officially will be retiring from the clerk’s post, which she has held since September 2012. Haley qualifies for retirement, according to the rules of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) to which Riverside belongs and provides pensions for village employees who are not police officers.

Employees must be at least 55 years old and have worked for the village at least eight years to be eligible to draw a pension through IMRF.

Replacement identified

According to the Riverside Municipal Code, the job of appointing the village clerk falls to the village president, along with the advice and consent of the village board. However, a replacement already has been identified.

At the village board’s Jan. 6 meeting, which will be held via Zoom at 7 p.m., the village board is expected to concur with a recommendation to appoint Ethan Sowl as clerk.

Since June, Sowl has worked at village hall as an intern while pursuing his master’s degree in public administration at Northern Illinois University. Effective Jan. 1, Frances is hiring Sowl as a full-time staffer with the title of management analyst. After he’s appointed clerk on Jan. 6, Sowl will serve in a dual role as clerk and as Frances’ administrative secretary.

The job of village clerk is not a glamorous one, but it is important. In addition to attending and taking minutes for all meetings of the village board, the clerk is also responsible for filing election records and referendum information with the county and must maintain records on Open Meetings Act training and compliance for elected and appointed officials.

The clerk signs off on resolutions and ordinances passed by the village board and also maintains records for business and liquor licenses.

“Cathy provided skilled and heartfelt service to Riverside for many years,” said Ben Sells, who served as village trustee from 2007-13 and as president from 2013-21. “She was a true jack of all trades, from being village clerk, to writing the bimonthly Riverside Review, to keeping the village board minutes, to being the village manager’s right hand. Her dedication to Riverside was sincere and her many talents will be missed.”

In all, Haley served as clerk under three village presidents, Michael Gorman, Sells and Joseph Ballerine.

Riverside’s clerk has been appointed since 2004, when Riverside voters passed a referendum that ended the practice of electing a village clerk. At the time, it had become very difficult to attract candidates to run for the office. Between 1999 and 2004, Riverside employed five different village clerks.

When she was appointed to the post of village clerk in 2012, Haley already was employed as the village manager’s administrative assistant and as deputy village clerk. She was hired by Village Manager Kathleen Rush as an administrative assistant in 2008.

Following her appointment, Haley’s position eventually was defined as executive secretary/village clerk, with the village paying her a straight hourly salary for the two positions combined. The village manager now serves deputy clerk.

Prior to Haley’s appointment, the village clerk worked part time and performed no other administrative duties inside village hall.