Fittest loser
Article updated: 7/23/2013 4:01 PM

Des Plaines to launch search for community development director

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With a new information technology director on board, Des Plaines has one senior level staff position remaining to fill.

City officials are getting ready to launch a nationwide search for a new community development director.

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"It's not being advertised," City Manager Mike Bartholomew said. "My intention is to work with a recruiter."

The city's previous community and economic development director, Alex Dambach, resigned in May and returned to his native New Jersey.

Bartholomew said the city has always conducted the recruitment of senior department heads in-house, but has had "a revolving door" problem when it comes to staff retention.

"We've got to stop that," he said. "We haven't had the luck that we need in terms of consistency or longevity. We're going to try something different."

Bartholomew said with the elimination of a residency requirement for department heads, the job should attract a better pool of candidates.

"Residency did play a big role in terms of who would even apply for the job," he said. "We probably want somebody that is already Chicago-based that understands Illinois and Cook County and the challenges that (it) presents."

Bartholomew, who himself served as community and economic development director before being promoted to city manager, said it is difficult for anyone in that position to juggle the job requirements.

The community development director is in charge of the city's planning and zoning department, code enforcement, and building department. Adding economic development to that mix was hard to manage, Bartholomew said.

"It has such a wide scope of activities it's just impossible for one person to do all of those things," he said. "We've now hired an economic development consultant to help us on that end. The consultant will take on the brunt of meeting new businesses."

The city retained The Tammen Group of Chicago for $100,000 to serve as its economic development consultant for 2013. Bartholomew said he would request the city council to extend the firm's contract for another year at the time of 2014 budget discussions.

By removing economic development duties, the community development director will have more time to focus on updating the city's building codes, Bartholomew said.

"We're still enforcing the 2006 international building codes," he said. "The 2012 (update) is available. We need to really focus on adopting those documents without putting a lot of our local modifications in. It makes it more difficult for businesses to try to understand what codes we are trying to enforce."

The Des Plaines City Council on Aug. 5 is expected to approve hiring the national head hunting firm of Robert Flavin for roughly $13,000 to do the community development director search.

The salary range for the job is between $105,000 and $137,000, plus benefits. The recruitment process will likely take between 45 and 60 days, Bartholomew said.

Meanwhile, the city recently hired Romeo Sora as its information technology director for an annual salary of $115,000 plus benefits. He was selected from among a pool of roughly 140 applicants, Bartholomew said.

Sora replaced Michael Duebner, who resigned about a year ago to take up a similar post in the village of Lake Zurich where Jason Slowinski, Des Plaines' former acting city manager, now serves as village administrator.

Sora previously worked for Schaumburg-based Flexera Software. He will report directly to Bartholomew who oversees the IT department.

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