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Women’s History in Lansing: Dorothy Wernicke – She brought administrative excellence to municipal service

Efficiency, honesty, organization, communication — Wernicke used her skills and experience to serve her community

Above: During the time that Dorothy Wernicke served as Village Clerk, the Lansing municipal offices were located at 3404 Lake Street. That building is now home to Visible Music College.

By Marlene Cook

LANSING, Ill. (March 11, 2022) – The Village Clerk’s office is the central headquarters tying together all village services and activities. Dorothy Wernicke did just that as she served the Village of Lansing from 1930 to 1957.

She began her career as secretary to the Village President and Board of Trustees and assistant clerk, serving for 15 years. She was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Clerk Henry Boender in 1943, and then officially elected to the clerk’s office in 1945. Dorothy Wernicke was re-elected every year until 1957 when she lost to Connie Gullickson.

Wernicke lived in Lansing most of her life at 18344 Ridgeland Avenue. She attended Indiana Avenue School, Thornton Fractional High School, and a business college. After 24 years in Lansing government, running for clerk again in 1953, her resume said she had a “complete business and secretarial education.”

Her reason for running again was simple public service. “My entire working career of 24 years was devoted to the municipal services of the Village of Lansing,” she said. “The knowledge obtained is a valuable asset to the community. I have conducted the village clerk’s office with an efficient, honest and economical manner, keeping good records for the village and giving the residents the best service possible.”

Village President Everett Schultz said, “[Dorothy Wernicke] has held the post since the mid-30s and has the longest record in office of any incumbent. She is the most efficient village clerk anywhere.”

In the 1953 election, Dorothy led the entire village ticket and was dubbed “champion vote getter.”

Dorothy wanted residents to understand their community and be involved in it. She shared her knowledge and experience freely. For example, on February 1, 1948, she spoke before the Ministerial Association at Grace Reformed Church and presented an analysis of community government from the time of Lansing’s incorporation in 1893 until 1948.

Dorothy received many honors while in office, including one from reporters of The Times. The headline read, “Capable Lady Village Official,” and the article described her as “setting an example for efficiency and conscientiousness for public officials in the Calumet region.” Dorothy was also given an honorary membership in the Lansing Junior Women’s Club.

Dorothy Wernicke
Photo from a 1957 campaign ad in the Times.

In 1957, Dorothy lost the election to Connie Gullickson. She graciously congratulated Connie and told her, “I’ll help you all I can.” For Dorothy, politics was not personal. It was about serving her community. From serving as Lansing’s Village Clerk for so many years, Dorothy moved on to work for Thornton Township.

Dorothy Wernicke died September 20, 1966, at the age of 56. Her obituary lists her as Dorothy Reynolds (Wernicke) and living in Park Forest for the previous four years.


Marlene Cook
Marlene Cook
Marlene Cook is a Lansing resident who loves learning and writing about local history. A member of the Illinois Women's Press Association since 1973, she has won multiple IWPA awards. Her 2020 awards in the Mate E. Palmer Communications Contest included first place for columns and second place for nonfiction book in the history category.