Trustees Approve Hiring Assistant for Village Manager
Expressing concern that the village manager is working too hard, Oak Lawn trustees are getting Larry Deetjen some help.
Whether he wants it or not, the Oak Lawn Village Board approved the hiring of an assistant for the village manager during Tuesday’s board meeting.
Village trustees approved a motion to participate in the ICMA fellowship program, paving the way to hire an assistant for the village manager at a salary not to exceed $40,000. Some trustees have complained that Village Manager Larry Deetjen’s response time has been too slow in getting back to them on constituents’ requests.
Deetjen told trustees that he has reached out to International City/County Management Association, a professional association for municipal managers, in referring candidates for a one-year fellowship to assist him in day-to-day operations.
“Oak Lawn has never had [an assistant village manager],” Deetjen said. “I think that it ought to be looked at in a progressive fashion. Starting with a fellowship, if the board and manager feel it’s an asset, we can talk about the next step in 2013.”
Trustees noted that with several large projects currently underway, including the master water project and the 111th Street development, having someone to respond to village board members and residents’ requests would allow the village manager to focus more on big picture projects.
Trustee Alex Olejniczak (Dist. 2) asked Deetjen if having an assistant would enable him to spend more time with his family.
“Because that’s one of the things I’m really concerned about,” Olejniczak continued. “You spend an awful lot of time here taking care of things. I know you’re not going to ask for help. I want to make sure … that this person will be able to hit the ground running and work under your tutelage to make you more productive. Does this allow you some wiggle room?”
“I like to think I’m pretty productive,” Deetjen said. “You have a wonderful management team that serves very well. I wouldn’t want to do anything that doesn’t assist the management team here that does an outstanding job for the community.”
Deetjen said he has already interviewed two candidates from the ICMA fellowship program who have some real-world experience in municipal management. The ICMA mandates a one-year agreement with municipalities for fellowships, but has an exit strategy should one or both parties decide the position isn’t working out before the year is up.
“They both have responded very favorably are doing due diligence at this point,” the village manager said. “I told both candidates there were no assurances … but if they performed well I would hope the board would look toward a more favorable opportunity to continue for the organization based on the next budget process.”
Trustee Bob Streit (Dist. 3), the village board’s longest-serving trustee, offered props to Deetjen, praising him as the most talented, hardest working and most qualified village manager out of the six he’s worked with.
“I think everybody could use some assistance but amending the budget to provide funding for that position I think is the wrong approach,” Streit said. “That’s why I will not support the measure at this time.”
Saying it wasn’t fair for Deetjen to be typing village memos on a Saturday night, Trustee Tom Phelan (Dist. 6) also chimed in, calling hiring a more experienced fellow a “cost-effective responsible approach” rather than a student intern.
“This person has to be more in tune to react and handle requests, respond to calls from board members and residents, and not have to turn around and call the manager to ask for direction,” Phelan said.
The salary offer capped at $40,000 does not include relocation expenses to Oak Lawn. The ICMA fellow would be required to live in the village. Rather than amending the current budget to add dollars for the position, Deetjen felt the village could work within its means.
Trustees voted 4 to 1 (Trustee Quinlan, Dist. 5, was out of town) to approve hiring a fellow to assist the village manager. Streit was the dissenting vote.