Tim Gillian knows he doesn’t possess the “normal qualifications” that other top administrators might bring to their public service jobs. At age 55 and semi-retired, Gillian doesn’t have a degree in finance or municipal administration or urban planning. In fact, he’s never run a city department or held an administrative job in the public sector.
Nonetheless, Gillian officially takes over as Forest Park’s fourth village administrator on Sept. 15, putting him in charge of a roughly $22 million budget. Any doubts that taxpayers – or council members – may harbor about his ability to do the job, he said, will be proven unfounded.
“I know that I’m going to do very well in this job,” Gillian said.
On Aug. 24, Gillian was hired over some 30 other applicants to help run a community in which he has spent his entire life. At 48 he retired from a family-run paving company and has since spent time working as a flight instructor. Gillian was recently re-elected to a four-year term on the Proviso Township board of trustees, and beginning in 1995, he served 12 years on the village council. Decades ago, he worked as an auxiliary police officer alongside his friend and political running mate, Mayor Anthony Calderone.
Gillian said his interest in the job was sparked in late 2008 when the former village administrator, Mike Sturino, announced his resignation.
“Tim’s proven dedication to Forest Park is what ultimately solidified my decision,” Calderone said in a statement released after casting the deciding vote in a 3-2 decision. “This position will not be a stepping stone to boost his career. He wants only what is best for this town and its residents …With Tim’s knowledge of the history of this community, our form of government, our finances and local laws, we would be doing a disservice to our residents if we selected anyone but him.”
Gillian’s appointment to the top administrative job at village hall comes over fierce objections from a minority of the council. Commissioner Marty Tellalian criticized his colleagues for hiring a man whom he said was so under-qualified he “would not get a job with any other village in the state.” He accused the mayor, Commissioner Mark Hosty and Commissioner Mike Curry, of cronyism.
Gillian, however, said his qualifications come from the “college of hard knocks” where he had to learn by doing. In the paving industry, Gillian said he grew familiar with contract negotiations, employee management, finance and state government. As a politician, he spent years learning the ins and outs of local government and brings a knowledge of the community that no outside hire could hope to match. In this sense, he said, his long-standing relationship with Calderone and others at village hall is an asset.
“I do have a relationship with the mayor where I can absolutely say, ‘you know, this is a mistake or bad policy,'” Gillian said. “A new administrator walking in the door doesn’t know the players and is going to spend time walking on eggshells.”
Since leaving the council in 2007, Gillian said he has advised the mayor, and others, on multiple occasions. He declined to give specific instances in which his advice was sought.
“The village of Forest Park is nothing more than a business, and frankly, it’s a small business,” Gillian said. “It’s no different than running a business.”
Details of Gillian’s salary and benefits have not yet been made available by the village, but council members advertised the position with an annual pay range of $80,000 to $100,000. Elected officials in Forest Park and Proviso Township may participate in the state’s pension program, but Gillian has not previously enrolled.