Dear Residents, Taxpayers, and Homeowners of Cook County,
Today is a bittersweet day for me, as I submit my resignation as Recorder of Deeds, and take the Oath of Office as your next Cook County Clerk.
I say goodbye to you all from this role, but only temporarily. As many of you know, the County Clerk’s Office will assume the duties of the Recorder’s Office over the next two years, and I will again be responsible for being the “chief advocate for homeowners in Cook County.”
When I took over as Recorder of Deeds in 2012, I was inspired by the people who have held this role before, people I look up to like Secretary of State Jesse White, and Senator/Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun. I was mindful of the changes they made for this office, changes that modernized government, and it was in their memory of service that I approached my role as administrator.
Though many of you knew me as a lawmaker, having previously served 12 years in Springfield as a State Representative, I am not a career politician. I spent most of my adult life as a small business owner, trying to figure out how to do more with less. That challenge guided my transition from lawmaker to administrator. I am equally energized about the changes ahead, as I will now lead an office almost twice the size of CCRD, and after the assumption of its duties, I will be responsible for one of the largest repositories of public (and private) records in the country.
This is a responsibility that I do not take lightly. Every day I wake up thinking about how important the public land record is to our economy, and our lives. Being able to prove we own our homes is perhaps the most important part of our nation’s economic success, and the building of a middle class. In many countries that lack a public land record, people are at best tenants on their own land, and the work they put in to improve it does not transfer to a right to live there forever.
In this country, our Deed is a promise that as long as we hold up our end of the bargain, we can live there forever, and so can our heirs. We can borrow against our equity. We can use our home as a piggy bank to hold us up in times of struggle. We can open businesses, or send our kids to college. We can build communities.
So as I close my final letter as the last elected Recorder of Deeds in Cook County, I want to reflect on the major accomplishments we have achieved together. Because CCRD is an office most people pay others to visit on their behalf, many aren’t aware of the great things we have done, such as:
- Setting a standard of fiscal responsibility, always bringing in more revenue than needed to operate
- Reducing headcount from nearly 200 to around 125, in six years
- Increasing the number of residents protected by our Free Property Fraud Alert (a program started by former Recorder Eugene Moore) from 500 in 2012 when we took office, to nearly 60,000 today
- Reducing spending every year (except one were the County Board approved salary increases for collective bargaining employees)
- Gaining international attention and respect for CCRD and Cook County by pioneering the study and adoption of blockchain technology
- Utilizing the principles behind blockchain technology to be one of the first offices to offer “certified digital files” in addition to paper
- Bringing the percentage of documents processed paperlessly, through “e-recording” from 22% in 2012 to almost 60% today
- Saving over 110 homes from fraud through our Fraud Unit and landmark “Review and Refer” program
- Bringing the number of veterans DD-214 records safeguarded from 1-3 per month, to hundreds per year (and enrolling over 10,000 veterans in our Military and Veterans Discount Program)
- Reached thousands of residents through our “Property After Death” Outreach Series, which saves residents thousands of dollars and ensures their property is conveyed to their heirs when they pass, without the need for probate court
- Documenting, for the first time ever, the history of the Recorder’s Office, and creating a permanent History Display in our downtown office
I want to thank the employees of the Cook County Recorder of Deeds Office, people who work hard every day to process one of the largest workloads in the country, over 2,000 transactions per day. I wish you all great success in the following years, and I give you my commitment that I will ensure that the transition to one office will be guided by the same high standards we set over the last six years.
Farewell (for now),
Karen A. Yarbrough