Kidd reflects on time at county clerk's office

Colleen Kidd has many fond remembrances – and anecdotes – after 38 years of service in the Piatt County Clerk’s office. Some go back to 1971, when staff would descend down two floors of narrow spiral staircases to access records stored in the basement of the courthouse.

Some are more recent, like getting stranded in the elevator near the top of the building earlier this year.

“The Sheriff saved me,” said Kidd, who said the doors opened not long after she punched the alarm.

Kidd, now 66, had two tenures in the Monticello courthouse, taking time out to raise her children. All of it was in the clerk’s department, now located on the first floor. Nearly four decades in the office – the past six years as county clerk – end this Friday when she retires. Deputy Clerk Jennifer Harper has been named as her successor.

“It’s time,” she told the Journal-Republican recently. “You know, they say you’ll know when it’s time, and it’s time.”

Serving under three county clerks as a deputy, Kidd succeeded Pat Rhoades in 2010 and won reelection two years ago. She decided to retire midway through the term to address some family health issues, and spend more time with her husband Bill, who retired two years ago.

“He’s ready for me to be home,” said Kidd, who hands the reins to Harper in January.

Good times
At a recent meeting, Piatt County Board Chairman Randy Keith praised Kidd for her positive attitude, and it showed as she shared remembrances of her time with the clerk’s office which she dubs the “happy office.” That because one of its main roles – besides managing local elections – is the issuance of marriage licenses.

“I consider us the happy office, because people don’t like to pay their taxes at the treasurer’s office, and they’re not happy when they go up to the circuit clerk’s office to pay a fine, but most of the time they’re happy in our office,” said Kidd, a lifelong native of Piatt County who now lives in DeLand.

Things are much different than in 1971 and not just because of less trips on the spiral staircase. She said the invention of the copier has probably helped her office more than anything else in those 38 years.

“When I started it took an hour – we had an old Photostat machine – to make a copy,” she said, noting clerk’s employees also had to go upstairs to the Circuit Clerk’s office, which for a while had the only Photostat, then the only copy machine.

“Now we don’t get any exercise,” she quipped.

Kidd also marvels at the magnitude of records that are strewn throughout the courthouse. From the old records of the “county farm” that housed indigent people in the early part of the 1900s to land records that go back to Piatt County’s formation in 1841.

She also remembers the “film room” that was part of the county education superintendent’s office when it was located in the courthouse. Schools would check out films for educational purposes.

Then there was the 46-year-old lady who came in for a marriage license, which on her application claimed it was her 12th marriage.

“She tried to erase it,” commented the soon to be former clerk.

There are plenty of things Kidd will miss. Maybe not the actual administration of elections, but the gathering of people in the courthouse to hear election results, a practice that is fading with the availability of returns online.

“I will miss the people who come in, and that’s what I’m proud of. I think my office gives the best customer service in the courthouse,” she bragged.

She won’t miss election day, and most of all she will not miss the complications caused by having 109 drainage districts in the county.

“That’s one of the things I heard often: ‘I hate drainage,’” said Harper.

Kidd grew up in White Heath, lived on a family farm near Mansfield for over 40 years, then moved to DeLand about two years ago.

Though known more for elections and marriage licenses, Kidd said there is much more that occurs in the county clerk and recorder’s office, mostly in the research of land records that go back 175 years.

“There’s just so much that happens in this office, and it’s usually only stuff that happens every two, three, four or five years,” she said.

Harper hopes Kidd will answer her phone when there are questions on such unique requests.

“Colleen just knows exactly where to go,” said Harper.

Keith also joked that Harper and Kidd are the same height, which is something that will come in handy on that tight-turning staircase to the basement.

“Colleen and I can fit under the stairs. Most people have to duck,” joked Harper.

Kidd added, “there are a couple of places you have to watch your head.” Then, referring to her diminutive stature, she added, “I don’t have to worry about it.”

Harper ready for the new challenge
“I don’t mind taking on the adventure and risk of trying to learn,” said Harper, who will fill the remainder of Kidd’s term. She plans to run for reelection in 2018.

Elections should not be a problem for Harper to handle as she has been in charge of them for most of her four years as deputy clerk. Prior to coming to the county clerk’s office in 2012, she worked in customer service at First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust for 10 years.

“I’ve got big shoes to fill. Colleen has all that knowledge,” she added.

Harper is readily endorsed by Kidd.

“She is very good at asking questions and seeking out knowledge,” she commented. “They’re going to be fine.”

Harper, 42, lives in Bement with husband Mike and has three children, a 24-year-old daughter and sons aged 15 and 13. Family hobbies include boating on area lakes when the weather warms.

Her family has another connection to the courthouse. Harper’s mother was a court reporter for former Piatt County Judge John Shonkwiler.


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