We’ll wait for another week to offer up thoughts on Tim Gillian’s about-to-end tenure as Forest Park’s village administrator.
Right now we’re more focused on what comes next after what appears to have been Gillian’s semi-surprising announcement that he is retiring as of the end of January. Since his mid-November declaration, we’ve had the lost week of Thanksgiving and we fully anticipate much of December will be lost for purposes of finding a replacement with the coming holidays and COVID-19 messing with all normal processes.
We’d start with some history: Forest Park went for decades without a lead administrator. It was the full manifestation of the absurd “commissioner form of government” that made the mayor powerful and turned commissioners into “department heads” whether they knew anything about sewers or issuing bonds or not.
A crazy way to run a government even in a small town.
Finally, common sense prevailed and in 1997 Forest Park hired a professional city administrator. A trio of pros followed in fairly short order, each making some headway, each bumping heads with the “old ways” of doing things. After Mike Sturino departed in 2008, Mayor Anthony Calderone found a more comfortable option. He hired his boyhood friend, former village commissioner Tim Gillian, as administrator.
Assuming Mayor Rory Hoskins does not have a childhood friend or political ally up his sleeve, the search for the next administrator is going to be challenging and critical.
While December is not a great month for an open search, it is time well used by actively engaging the four other commissioners in a dialogue about the qualities needed to run this town. This will require the four commissioners to actually speak. And for the mayor to listen to them. These will both be novel experiences.
The public will have thoughts, too. As will current village government department heads. December is for listening.
It is essential that a plan and a timeline for a search process be set. A search firm will likely be needed even though the pool of candidates is not endless. Possible also that Forest Park will need to hire a professional outside interim manager for a few months to allow time to conduct a full search.
Forest Park seems most likely to attract a younger candidate maybe stepping up into her first top job. Or it might find a veteran looking to cap a career in city management. Whoever is chosen will need to be given room to make changes to what has been a fairly static organization. And with the very real impact of COVID on the village budget and the business climate, Forest Park is also going to need a person able to innovate and engage.
Time’s a-wasting. The end of January will be here in the blink of an eye.