The Tazewell County Clerk unveiled a public display of newly available military discharge records during a ceremony Monday afternoon in the McKenzie Building on Fourth Street in Pekin.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed Senate Bill (SB) 1007 into law Aug. 16. According to John Ackerman, Tazewell County clerk and Recorder of Deeds, the law makes Military Discharge Papers public documents following 62 years after filing. If the documents contain any personal information, this information will be redacted on copies made available to the public. This change matches current United States Government Policy for retention of Military Discharge Papers they maintain.
“Because of the state law at the time, no one was allowed to see (the records.),” said Ackerman. “This entire display (of records) was in the closet until early (Monday) morning. To me, that’s not a place of honor.”
Illinois State Sen. Chuck Weaver and Illinois Rep. Tim Butler, who sponsored SB 1007, attended the Monday unveiling in the Recorder of Deeds division of the McKenzie Building.
“This is the way legislation’s supposed to work,” said Butler. “We get good ideas from local people and local office-holders. This basically brings us into compliance with federal law, but we had to take that step in Illinois to make sure these records were available to people.”
SB 1007 was recommended to the state legislature by the Tazewell County Clerk’s Recorder of Deeds Division, Ackerman said. Staff members in the Tazewell Recorder of Deeds office have nicknamed the new legislation Sharon’s Law as a tribute to deputy clerk Sharon Sciortino.
“Sharon is the one that, a few days into my term as county clerk, said ‘Have you seen our Civil War military discharge papers?’” said Ackerman. “I said, ‘No. What have we got ... 25 or 30 (records)?’ She pulled out (a book containing) the 980 Tazewell County
Civil War military discharge papers that we’ve had the honor of holding.”
Weaver lauded the passage of SB 1007 as an example of citizens legislating. He added that the persistence of Ackerman and the staff in the Tazewell County Clerk’s office played a major role in getting the bill before state lawmakers.
“I had a town hall meeting (in Pekin) about six months ago,” Weaver said. “Four ideas came up, and people said, ‘You need to run this law.’ I tell all of them the same thing: ‘I’ll run it, but you’ve got to do all the work, because you have more passion and knowledge than I do about the issue.’ Very seldom do they follow up. But John did.”
Sciortino was presented with a plaque commemorating her contribution to developing SB 1007. Light refreshments were served following the ceremony.