First reported 4/20/2009 2:33 p.m.
As members of the village council winnow the applicant pool for the village administrator’s post, at least one of the nine candidates being invited for an interview won’t have to travel far.
Tim Gillian, a Forest Park resident, former council member and childhood friend of the mayor’s has survived the first round of cuts, according to two people familiar with the hiring process. Given Gillian’s personal and political ties to Mayor Anthony Calderone, skepticism that Gillian could effectively manage the village is reasonable, several commissioners said.
However, they denied that anyone lobbied for Gillian to receive preferential treatment.
“In any meeting or conversation I’ve had, I’ve not had anyone say to me, ‘you should interview Person X,’ whether that person’s Tim or somebody else,” Commissioner Mike Curry said.
Curry, Calderone and Commissioner Marty Tellalian are responsible for conducting the initial round of interviews for the job. Council members agreed early on that any elected official could recommend an applicant be selected for an interview. Some 30 resumes for the position were received earlier this year.
Council members have said they would not publicly identify any of the applicants until it is time to nominate an individual, and members of the hiring subcommittee declined to confirm whether Gillian was among the nine chosen for an interview.
During a closed meeting held to discuss all of the applicants, Tellalian said each council members presented arguments for or against various candidates. Those discussions did not give him the impression that any of the applicants had an unfair advantage, he said.
“The conversations were pretty short,” Tellalian said. “I wouldn’t call any one of them a lobbying effort.”
Calderone also declined to comment on any of the applicants specifically, but said the screening process has been fair.
“I think we have a very good selection of capable prospects,” Calderone said.
According to Tellalian, most of the applicants are residents of northern Illinois and live within a few hours’ drive of Forest Park. Gillian is the only resident who will be interviewed.
Face-to-face meetings with the nine applicants are expected to take place in the coming weeks. A smaller number of finalists will be selected and interviewed by all five council members.
Gillian confirmed that he applied for the village administrator’s position, but said that as of April 20 he had not been notified of his standing.
Gillian is a former paving contractor and currently works as a flight instructor.
For 12 years until 2007, Gillian served as a council member in Forest Park, initially deciding to run for the position with Calderone. In subsequent elections they campaigned together and Gillian seemed to enjoy a broad base of support. He never lost an election and in 2007 opted not to run.
In an interview following his decision to step down, Gillian said he was growing tired of the toll that local politics were taking on his personal life.
As for his current interest in the administrator’s post, Gillian said it appears much of the turmoil at village hall has died down while his interest in public service has remained.
“Frankly, I miss it,” Gillian said.
Gillian still holds public office as a Proviso Township trustee and was re-elected to a four-year term on April 7. However, Gillian did not fare well in his hometown and received fewer votes in Forest Park than did another resident running against him.
Both Curry and Tellalian agreed that whoever is hired to be the next village administrator, that person’s objectivity is critical. At the onset of the hiring process, council members sparred publicly over whether the position should be redefined, possibly with less overall authority. Hiring someone with ties to any of the elected officials could be perilous, they said.
“Impartiality among any of the candidates is a serious issue,” Curry said. “You want someone who’s going to be fair, reasonable, have common sense and put the interests of Forest Park ahead of everything else.”
Should Gillian win the job, Tellalian said it would reasonable for residents to be wary of his relationship with the mayor.
“If anyone of us had close connections with a candidate that was chosen for the job, their impartiality should be a concern,” Tellalian said.
Calderone denied that Gillian’s management capabilities might be impugned because of their relationship. In the years during which they held office together, the mayor said he and Gillian always worked with the community’s interests in mind and have a solid record of accomplishments. Any applicant for the administrator’s job should be evaluated on their merits, said Calderone, and it would unfair to disqualify Gillian because of his ties to the mayor.
“I’ve never tried to position the village administrator as a wedge between myself and the village council,” Calderone said.