Willard Helander graduated with honors from the University of Mississippi with a BA and received a JD from the University of Tennessee College of Law, holding a judicial clerkship for the Tennessee Civil Court of Appeals after law school. Moving to Illinois in 1978, she worked in the trust and probate field, taking time off to volunteer in her community and raise her three children. In 1992, Willard was selected as the founding Executive Director of the Transportation Management Association of Central Lake County, raising half a million in corporate and government funding in 18 months.
In 1994, she was elected as the first Republican to serve as Lake County Clerk after twenty four years of Democratic officeholders. In her distinguished 20 year tenure as County Clerk, Willard continually challenged herself and her staff to provide superior customer service. She oversaw the implementation of technology and automation in the office, including digitization of voter signatures, initiating the County government web page and piloting of the first internet reporting of election results in Illinois, launching optical scan voting before the 2000 elections, expanding voting options for people with disabilities, implementing early voting, instituting online training for election workers and local government election officials, and spearheading the county’s first successful electronic record archive.
Under her pioneering leadership, the International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Elected Officials, and Treasurers (IACREAOT) awarded her office their inaugural “Most Innovative Technology” award in recognition of her use of the County’s internally-created geographic information system (GIS) software to code voters after 2000 census, resulting in a savings of $500,000 to taxpayers.
Highly regarded in her field, she was involved in multiple professional organizations, a member of the Illinois State Bar Association and past member of the State Board of Elections Advisory Committee. Willard has volunteered on the boards of many civic organizations, including MainStreet Libertyville, Boys and Girls Club of Lake County, Youth and Family Counseling, Community Action Partnership, Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center and the North Shore Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Willard and her husband, Glenn Jarvi, reside in Wheaton, IL.