Forest Park’s village council considered a range of approaches on how to hire a village administrator to replace the retiring Tim Gillian during a special meeting on Dec. 4.

The council discussed hiring a search firm, seeking help from a local government consortium or simply advertising the post and screening candidates on its own. The council also considered the likelihood that a replacement will not be in place before Gillian departs in late January. 

Although an open meeting, it was attended only by three spectators, including the Review. The meeting was also attended and facilitated by Vanessa Moritz, village clerk and human resources director.

By the end of the meeting, it was determined that two things will happen: First, each commissioner will email a “hit list” of requirements they think necessary in a candidate for the position. This will allow Moritz to amend the job description based on commissioner feedback.

Second, Moritz will provide research on third party search firms, including costs, to Mayor Rory Hoskins and commissioners so a decision about using a firm can be made.

The goal is to have these pieces communicated among the commissioners and clerk by the end of the week, so decisions can be made at the Dec. 14 village council meeting.

Commissioner Dan Novak said he wants to make sure the village takes its time to make the right decision instead of rushing to get someone in place. Before Gillian was hired, the village went between seven to nine months without someone in the position. Currently, said Novak, the department heads have a solid handle on their jobs; he’s confident, he said, in the roles they provide.

“We need to start smart, execute with excellence and finish with success,” Novak said.

Commission Jessica Voogd agreed that taking time, including evaluating the role itself, is important.

“We have a unique opportunity to set the tone for the future management style we want in Forest Park,” Voogd said. She added that taking into account the long-term goals of the town is essential, so a “rough around the edges” strategic plan would be part of the process of determining what’s needed in the next village administrator.

“We have serious financial obligations we need to tackle,” said Voogd, and that would be one of the considerations to weigh heavily when looking for Gillian’s replacement.

In additional to financial considerations, Commissioner Joe Byrnes brought up the fact that the village needs someone with exceptional people skills, since the job requires daily interaction with the various department heads.

In terms of whether an outside firm should be hired to assist in the recruitment and hiring process, Commissioner Ryan Nero suggested reaching out to the West Central Municipal Conference (WCMC), which can provide resources for recruiting and hiring. This option, which would come at a relatively low price ($3,500 was mentioned), will be considered, as will hiring a more expensive firm, such as GovHR.

“Getting help from an outside firm would expedite the process,” Novak said.

Hoskins said he thinks the recruitment and hiring of a new village administrator can be done in-house because cost is a consideration for the village right now.

“This is a talented group,” he said about the commissioners. “I think we can do it.”

Byrnes said he was “kind of torn on the issue.”

“I think we might need professional people who do this for a living to help us,” Byrnes said. “We should consider professional advice on this.”

Voogd said she would be interested in learning about third party assistance, but was worried, like Hoskins, about expense.

“I don’t know if we should be spending Cadillac dollars on this,” Voogd said.

In an interview on Dec. 2, Mayor Rory Hoskins said the village will “probably not” have a new village administrator in place by the time Gillian leaves, and the commissioners during the meeting echoed this sentiment.

“Let’s get our ducks in a row,” said Novak during the meeting. “We have to hit the breaks to do it right.”

Hoskins said Gillian will still be around to consult until a replacement is found. Hiring an interim person to oversee things until someone is hired is a possibility, said Hoskins, who said he spoke to the village attorney about “the parameters for the process.”

When Gillian was hired in 2009, Hoskins said, the council set up a three-person review team to go through applications. They received about 20, and those applicants were whittled down to 10 people, who were interviewed by the full village council.

Hoskins said he envisions a similar process this time around, but they haven’t yet formed the interview team.

“We’ll have no trouble attracting a broad pool of candidates,” Hoskins said, though he added that finding the right person is important.

“Sometimes you have someone who, on paper, looks like a great hire. But then they may have some personal communication deficit, or what have you, that make them hard to get along with. We obviously want to find someone who will be able to work with a small group of people with strong opinions and unconventional styles. We want someone who knows about Forest Park and who is sincerely committed to its success.”

At the Dec. 4 meeting, Hoskins spoke about Gillian’s strengths, about his ability to build relationships with people around him and his hands-on approach to jumping in when needed. Hoskins mentioned a recent storm, during which Gillian missed a village council meeting because he was working a chainsaw, helping Public Works clean up the streets.

Hoskins added that he wants someone who plans to stick around for more than a few years.

“We don’t know exactly what the talent pool looks like. But I’ve never thought that we wouldn’t have a broad pool of applicants. Forest Park is an attractive place to live, an attractive place to dine. And it’s an attractive place to work.”