PEORIA — One of late Peoria County Clerk Steve Sonnemaker's deputies is running to succeed him.

Gabe McLeod, a 12-year veteran of the office, announced his candidacy for the position Thursday evening at the Lariat Steakhouse.

Flanked by family members, County Board members and countywide elected officials, McLeod pledged to "build upon the the foundation and successes" of Sonnemaker's term in office, calling him a mentor and a friend.

McLeod, like Sonnemaker a Democrat, preached a platform of fiscal conservatism.

"If I'm going to expense taxpayers' money, it has to add value" for citizens, he said.

The first-time candidate also detailed his work in the office to digitize records — avoiding problems with only having a single, paper copy of vital records including birth, marriage and death certificates — at no additional cost to taxpayers.

"I want to lead this project through to completion," he said.

McLeod also made note of his work with colleagues in the office to create the first online form people can fill out with information for a marriage license. Before that first-in-the-state upgrade, it could take couples 35 to 45 minutes to work with a deputy clerk to fill out a form. Now it can be done in 10 minutes or less at a computer terminal, he said.

Sonnemaker died June 14 after a brief illness. He'd just been re-elected without opposition in 2018.

Board members last week appointed one of their own, Rachael Parker, to serve until the 2020 election. In accepting the post she said she had no intention of seeking the seat and that she hoped to create "a level playing field for those individuals that have that desire to run for this office."

The person elected in 2020 will serve the remaining two years of the term and the office will be up for re-election in 2022.

McLeod, a Western Illinois University graduate with a business degree, is married with a daughter.