GALESBURG–Kelly Cheesman, 47, the Knox County Clerk of the Circuit Court, is running unopposed for her third term in office. The Galesburg High School graduate began working in the Knox County Courthouse in 1981 when she was 19, despite advice from her parents to attend college.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life,” Cheesman said. “I just needed some direction.”
Cheesman began in the Traffic Department and later moved to the Criminal Divisions. She filed papers, processed tickets, and did bookkeeping. She also did hands-on figuring, due to the lack of computers in the department at that time.
After spending almost 20 years working in the building, former Circuit Clerk Mary Stein chose not to run for another term. Stein informed Cheesman she would support her campaign if she chose to compete for the elected office. Cheesman was shocked by the endorsement.
“Her announcement definitely came as a surprise for me,” said Cheesman. However, she heeded Stein’s advice and, in 2000 won her first four-year term.
As the current Circuit Clerk, Cheesman is the keeper of records for the court and maintains paperwork for the Knox County judges. Cheesman must attend all court hearings to take in exhibits, swear in witnesses, and take small notes. The judge will give the offender a ticket for the crime committed during the hearing. Close to 20 different fines, such as Court Security and teen court fees, can comprise one ticket.
Once a ticket is received by the offender, he or she may pay the fine right away or ask for more time if necessary. He or she will then be put on a monthly payment schedule and Cheesman and the rest of the Circuit Clerk’s office will take it in as it arrives. The money will then be divided among the smaller fees on the ticket.
Cheesman is listed as a Republican on the ballot for the November election, but she said political affiliation has no effect on her work as Circuit Clerk. Other officials, according to Cheesman, can enact laws, but the Circuit Clerk position cannot.
Although Cheesman is running unopposed, she said she is still trying “to run a professional and courteous [campaign] for taxpayers.”
“I still appreciate everyone’s vote.”
There are six counties within the Ninth Judicial Circuit, and currently these counties are all on the same software. However, when elected, Cheesman plans on making the software web-based, so judges have easier access to information.
Cheesman and her husband Steve, a teacher at Churchill Junior High School, have been married for 27 years. Both are lifelong residents of Galesburg and have two children, Carson, 13 and Breck, 18.