BLOOMINGTON — Nikita Richards hopes to bring the public into the McLean County clerk's office.
“I want there to be a sense of community and transparency with this office, for people to have a better understanding of what the clerk’s role is,” she said. “Is it only around election day people at the clerk's office reach out to you? ... It shouldn't be that way.”
Richards, a Democrat, will pursue that goal as she opposes incumbent Kathy Michael in the November 2018 election.
Richards, who works as employment coordinator for the city of Bloomington, also is a public relations consultant and an activist for Indivisible IL-13, a group in U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis' congressional district promoting a liberal platform.
Though Richards embraces her role as an activist, her interest in the clerk's office is deeper, she said at a press conference on Thursday. She cited her experience as clerk of the city's Administrative Court as an inspiration for seeking the county office.
“I was responsible for helping create a lot of the policies and procedures at (that court),” Richards said. “Those same leadership, management and organizational skills are transferable."
Richards is a Chicago native who moved to Bloomington-Normal to attend Illinois State University and decided to stay. She has a bachelor’s degree in politics and government, a master's degree in communication and a paralegal studies certification, all from ISU.
Richards has served on several local boards, including the McLean County Human Service Council, Not In Our Town Committee and Unit 5 School District Diversity Advisory Committee.
She said that service shows she's proactive about serving the community, where Michael, she claimed, is reactive. Richards referred to the March 2016 primary election, when many voters faced long lines at the polls due to under-staffing — an issue resolved for future elections after college students complained.
“It wasn’t until the demands flowed in like a river from students that she decided to do something about it. It shouldn't take that,” said Richards, who is a U.S. Navy veteran.
Michael, a Republican, has been clerk since 2010. Her salary is $98,255.