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CHARLESTON -- Two Republican candidates are offering of similar goals from different perspectives in the race to become Coles County Clerk.

Julie Coe, who has served in the office as the lead on recording and digitizing deeds and a second in command, is running on not only her experience in the office but that of her "mentor" Sue Rennels, current county clerk, who is in support of the candidate.

And Jackie Freezeland, who has experience as the village clerk in Ashmore, is hoping to offer up a "fresh perspective" to the county position should she be elected.

"I don't have any preconceived notions coming into it," Freezeland said. "An advantage to bringing someone new in is a fresh perspective and a fresh energy."

The main focus for both of them is ensuring the office runs efficiently and within its means, but they each have ideas on improvements they are interested in diving into should they get elected, many of which were addressed in a recent forum.

Some of their goals for the office overlap.

Both are interested in continuing work to digitize records and offer more of the services available in the office online.

Freezeland said she would like to see the Coles County website get revamped and more streamlined as things move online.

"The Coles County website is better than some websites I have seen," she said. "But as a candidate coming through the process, there are things that the county clerk website is sometimes behind on."

Freezeland noted this would be dependent on funding, though.

Coe said that the process to shift documents and records online has been a continued project for the office for some time, and she expects to continue if she gets the position. It is an ongoing project that will take some time in completing also, she indicated. There is a cornucopia of records to index and put into the system.

"It is happening and that is exciting," she said.

More specifically, Coe hopes to have the chance to bolster the online genealogy.

"Making that more accessible to people who maybe live hours away and can't come into our office and access those documents" is a key interest of hers for the position. Online genealogy is something she hopes could be offered in the future.

Both Coe and Freezeland are interested in implementing a debit or credit card machine in the office for payments.

Election awareness and security are also two big concerns they have running for county clerk.

Coe said it is a big concern especially as the potential for election hacks is a more looming fear among people. Both said they expect to stay on top of this and ensure the election equipment is up to date for extra security.

"We will have to keep on top of elections, making sure that we are current with the most recent security features, which we are," Coe said.

Coe noted that in this upcoming election, the actual ballots will never reach a server. She said they will actually be tallied on a memory stick that will be handed in the office to then be printed out. This will unexpectedly ensure another level of security.

Additionally, Coe hopes to transition election judge training online at some point.

In that same vein, Freezeland said she hopes to spread more awareness of elections, the candidates, and voting should she get elected.

"The county clerk is in a unique position that they understand the nuances of politics as a formality, as a process," she said. "I think a lot of people are intimidated by politics."

She said she would like to develop a program or process of better educating voters and students in schools on what goes into any particular election.

Neither sees a need for drastic change to the operations in the office.

"I don't feel like the office does not need an overhaul," Coe said. "I have been there going on six years and I feel it is very efficiently run. Every time, we have a reason of why we do what we do."

Freezeland said it is not beneficial to simply start changing operations in the office before grasping the nuances of that office.

Coe said she also plans on continuing programs the office has started including property fraud alerts program and the veterans honor award program.

Property fraud, in particular, has been an issue in other counties, and Coe said the office wanted to be proactive in preventing it or at least notifying people of it.

The general primary is March 20. These two are the only candidates vying for the Republican ticket and no one has registered for the Democratic ticket.



Jarad Jarmon is a reporter for the JG-TC. He covers the city of Charleston, Eastern Illinois University, Mattoon schools and the Regional Office of Education.

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