In honor of that rare breed of good state employees

In honor of that rare breed of good state employees

By Ray Hanania


Ray Hanania

The saga of getting my boat registered continued this past week. The process is so complicated when you buy a boat from a private seller (non-retailer) because you are dealing with several government agencies that really should all be merged into one.

But in the lengthy, paper-filled process, I met two state employees who deserve to be recognized, because they are so good at what they do.

Last week, I told you about how I hassled with getting a license for the boat trailer. It wasn’t easy, until I ran into Dorothy in Rockford.

As a part of registering the boat, you have to pay the state tax on the purchase. It’s a lot of money, and I wanted to pay it personally. Plus, the state website made it sound like I couldn’t apply for anything until that tax is paid.

The Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) website is pretty clear, warning, “You must submit proof of tax payment or proof of exemption before your watercraft registration will be issued by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources” (DNR).


Pontoon Boat docked

The IDOR website listed six offices. I decided to drop in at the Des Plaines office.

On my way, I called to make sure I could pay the tax there. I wasn’t expecting anyone to answer, but a man did. He explained, “We don’t collect revenue here.”

What he meant, of course, was I couldn’t pay the tax at that office or any office in person. I had to mail it in.

Government doesn’t make it easy to do the right thing. I stopped at a currency exchange and the clerk there said, “We do a lot here, but we don’t take sales taxes for the state.”

Yikes! How was I going to complete the Illinois Boat registration process without first paying the sales tax?

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Rainbow over lake

The DNR is the Secretary of State for boat owners. There are eight of them in Illinois. At that point already on the road heading north, I decided to detour to the DNR in Bartlett. I figured, what else am I doing to do now that I’m on the road? My day is shot.

The DNR’s Bartlett office is named in honor of former Senate President James “Pate” Phillip who retired in 2003. The office is listed on Stearns Road, and is a part of the larger Pate Philip State Park.

I knew Pate. He was a good guy, always courteous and willing to talk to reporters.

When I got there, the place was huge. I parked and walked around the building to the entrance and was immediately greeted by a nice lady named Marisol.

Now Marisol is exactly the kind of state employee you hope to run into, but rarely do when dealing with state government’s bureaucracy. Not only was she courteous, she actually spent the time – 30 minutes – walking me everything I needed to do to get the boat registered. I mean, I had a lot of stupid questions because nothing about the process made sense or was easy.

She gave me a form RUT-75, which she said I could fill out with the sales tax check, and mail it all with the boat registration forms. Problem solved.

I’m thinking, Marisol, where have you been all my life slogging through the state’s bureaucracy?

Marisol and Dorothy are rare in state government. They actually want to help you, and they do.

I know that Secretary of State Jesse White is planning to retire soon. Dorothy should be named to take his place. And as for Marisol, well, I don’t know who heads up the DNR, but she should be the boss!

(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and political columnist. Email him at Connect with him on Facebook at

Categories: Baby Boomers, General Topics, Good Government, Travel

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