After 30 years and heading up two different public departments, Barbara Young walked away from the Courthouse Annex for the last time this week.
Friday marked Young’s last day at the annex as an officeholder as she retires after serving eight years as Vermilion County Recorder and more than 20 years in the Danville Election Commission — a large majority of it as head of the city department.
Young’s career in Vermilion County politics is a departure from the career path she originally set out toward. An Illinois State University graduate, Young’s goal was to be a teacher at one of Chicago’s inner-city schools.
The step into politics is one Young, who lives in Danville, said she never pictured herself taking. She began her career as part of the then-YWCA in Danville, which she said helped establish the fortitude she relied upon during her years in public office.
Her work at the YWCA and a teaching job in Potomac preceded her first one-day-a-week job for the election commission. One day, however, eventually grew into five days. When the department’s executive director decided to retire, Young said, “it was a fit” that she take over.
“When I got to be the executive director and they swore me in, the judge said ‘Barbara, I’ve made your appointment, I’ve signed the paperwork. You screw up one election and you’ll be gone,’” she said.
“I took his words to heart and his words were that people didn’t trust the election system,” Young added. “If they found things were run wrong or not as they should be, it was his name that was in jeopardy as well as mine and he wouldn’t put up with it.”
Young said she has mixed feelings about leaving public office, but is confident in the decision she’s made.
Young announced last year that she would not run for re-election to the recorder’s office, saying it was a good time to step away and let someone else take over the office. Thomas O’Shaughnessy was elected recorder in this month’s election and takes over next week.
Part of the reason for leaving was the intent to take care of her sick mother — who then passed away the first day of petition filing for the election.
Despite the loss of her mother, Young said she stuck with her decision to leave public office.
“At that point, I decided there were other things that I wanted to do and still am looking at,” she said Friday. “I’m not finished politically at this point, I’m looking at several things.”
She added her love for the wide open spaces of Wyoming makes an eventual move there possible to enjoy her hobbies of writing and painting.
“I’ve visited there several times and it’s a quiet, peaceful place,” she said.
Young indicated she also intends to travel and spend time with her grandchildren.
Young’s time as head of the Danville Election Commission and as the county recorder was marked with several advances for the offices. She oversaw the installation of new voting equipment for the city and in her years as recorder she developed a free index search and property fraud alert system as well as enhanced a remote Internet access system.
She also oversaw the back-scanning and digitalization of 214,016 land records dated from 1826 to 1987.
In addition to her time as an office-holder, Young served as president of the Association of Election Commission Officials of Illinois as well as liaison to the Illinois State Board of Elections.